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Board of Ed to Ask Town for Armed School Resource Officers

Brookfield's Board of Education will request that the town hire at least one police officer for each school building.

During a discussion on school security at the last Board of Education (BOE) meeting, a conversation was started on School Resource Officers (SROs). After some debate, the board moved 5-2 to recommend that the Board of Selectmen (BOS) hire at least one armed SRO for each of Brookfield's four school.

Board member Victor Katz, who initiated the discussion, said he has been thinking about this security measure since Dec. 14 — when 20 children and six educators were gunned down in Sandy Hook Elementary School in neighboring Newtown — and decided the morning of the BOE meeting to broach the subject that night.

While the town does have a Youth Officer — Brookfield police officer Gary Gramling — the recommendation from the BOE is for full-time officers to be stationed at each school, with special training working with children.

“There’s an additional layer of protection and it acts as a deterrent,” said Katz, who has two children in the Brookfield school system, at Center Elementary School (CES) and Whisconier Middle School (WMS). “As a board member, a parent in this town, as a resident, I’d like to see that extra layer… I feel like if I didn’t propose this I’m not doing my job.”

Board member Harry Shaker, who was one of the two votes against the motion (along with Vice Chair Jane Miller), said he is not opposed to having SROs in each school but wanted more time to consider the proposal.

“I was against voting in the moment to ask the town for over $300,000,” he explained, stating that he would prefer the request come directly from the residents — through a petition or letter campaign — rather than through the BOE.

“We’re doing everything we can within our financial boundaries and resources to make those public buildings safe,” Shaker said. “But without this being government subsidized, it will be hard to figure out how to pay for it.”

According to board Chairman Ray DiStephan, “It would be the town of Brookfield who hires the officers then assigns them to the schools.”

DiStephan said that while there was “some expectation that we balance the cost in our education budget,” he fears that might be detrimental. “I don’t want SROs in the building at the expense of teachers,” if funding had to be diverted, “Our role is to educate these kids.”

The BOE met with Brookfield Police Chief and former FBI agent Robin Montgomery shortly after the Dec. 14 shooting to discuss safety and security concerns. The option of hiring SROs through the Brookfield Police Department was suggested then, with Montgomery estimating the annual cost per officer to be around $75,000, however it was not made a part of the three-phase plan currently being discussed and implemented.

DiStephan, who at first argued against the idea of stationing officers at each school, said when it came to a vote, “I didn’t feel I had enough to reject the idea.”

Though at first he worried about the atmosphere armed officers would create in the schools, DiStephan now sees this role as “really a community piece… focused on the community relations between the police department and the students,” rather than “disruptive or counterproductive.”

DiStephan said he still has some concerns — such as the sustainability of such a program year-over-year, the effectiveness of armed patrols in preventing violence and finding and training the right people — however, “If anyone in a school building has a gun, it should be a police officer, not just trained how to shoot but how to deal with tense situations,” he said.

The board and school administration will be drafting a letter to the BOS urging them to consider the proposal, which would still have to go to a public hearing and town vote (either a town meeting or referendum) before being implemented.

“This is going to take a process anyway,” Shaker said, adding that he might ultimately vote in favor when it goes to the residents.

“If people want this, let’s find out if they really want it,” DiStephan agreed. “If they do, I’ll support it.”

Brian Kelly January 31, 2013 at 10:55 PM
There were two armed officers at Columbine; they were simply outgunned. The one stationed there fired at Harris, but didn't hit him and a motorcycle cop that happened to be nearby and was called to the scene got a shot in at Harris too. That said, we know a lot more about school shootings now then we did then. So it's an apple and oranges argument, in my opinion. I believe SROs are just one of a plethora of things we need to be doing. This is a societal problem. SROs are a bandaid, a feel-good short-term answer. They need to be in the schools, but we also need to look at our culture as a whole, and try and figure out just why these things happen. This won't happen overnight, but SROs can.
Ken February 01, 2013 at 12:53 AM
Volunteering in the school system is more along the lines of assisting a professional, helping out with a club, helping with some sort of remedial program such as being a literacy skills helper and helping in an after school activity. The key operative words linked to volunteering are helping and assisting. An armed guard does not fall under helping and assisting. The liability risks of using volunteers with guns as guards not under the direct control of the town likely rules out this possibility to start with. A volunteer armed guard is also not going to have the current level of training and expertise in understanding how to deal with multiple situations that a police officer is trained to deal with. I appreciate all of the service to our country by vets but I do not think this would be feasible use of their prior experience as volunteer armed guards. As for retired police willing to volunteer their time there may be more of a fit here. The question of course then comes back to them having to be covered under the towns insurance. Our carrier would likely require these retired police to maintain all current and updated standards and training that current members of the police force must meet. We would have to ensure their on going training and show they still maintain their certification of expertise in the use of fire arms. Using retired police would be a lot less costly than hiring new police officers.
Steven DeVaux February 01, 2013 at 02:07 AM
Tell you what Loving Mom, let's let the young couples looking for their first house do their homework - and then vote with their wallets. They don't care what people say - they watch what people do. They are wise to Brookfield's smooth talking real estate brokers. Anything is a possibility but the odds you're looking at top the $500 million dollar lottery. Kids will want to live in a town where nothing ever happens. The odds are a lot better and they can see the quality of the community their children will be involved with.
Steven DeVaux February 01, 2013 at 02:08 AM
me, They're working late. They don't have time for this, they have a mortgage to pay.
Steven DeVaux February 01, 2013 at 02:11 AM
If people looking at Brookfield sense that Brookfield's kids have a mental health issue, you can be sure they're going to quietly - and without saying anything - eschew Brookfield like it was the Love Canal.
Steven DeVaux February 01, 2013 at 02:12 AM
Brookfield Resident, You're talking about Ridgefield, New Fairfield, Bridgewater...not Brookfield.
Steven DeVaux February 01, 2013 at 02:13 AM
Fire a social worker and hirea gun guy in their place. Solves two problems at once.
Steven DeVaux February 01, 2013 at 02:20 AM
me, They won't volunteer for the one night for the gradulation party. You think they are going to volunteer for every day - and then deal with school administrators to boot?!
Loving Mom February 01, 2013 at 06:44 PM
These young minds can have the choice or feeling like they're in a prison or feeling as if they are safe. It's all how it's presented to them. The policemen are trained to work with youth and they are friendly, helpful and assuring to kids (in schools that already have them). I can tell you that since the Sandy Hook shooting happened, many many kids AND educators are very fearful. They can't learn unless they feel safe. And we should do all we can to make that happen. The presence of SROs is comforting to kids. Do the research in kids opinions where they are present. It is unfortunate, it is costly, but these are our children and those dedicated to our children. Sandy Hook proved the dedication so many educators have. I know this will upset those concerned about cost, but the best way to have SROs at a school is to have more than one. That way there is always immediate backup. It is unbelievable this is current day America, but it is.
Kevin O'Connor February 01, 2013 at 11:12 PM
I must ask, to those who want armed volunteer guards, don't you think that's a little counter-productive? Isn't the whole new security thing about making sure random people with guns don't come into the building? Now you want to invite them so as long as the pinky swear to just guard? Not to mention that it totally desensitizes people to random people carrying guns around the school, something that should alarm people. I don't believe SROs would be effective a eliminating a threat, there's too much chaos and danger for one person. I think people believe that an SRO can warp to the location and instantly take down a target. You have to remember that he's trying not to be hurt, he's trying to make sure student get hurt. I think in any situation one officer wouldn't be effective... at best he might be able to distract them a little. And yes, there was an armed SRO at Columbine. Columbine also proved that SROs don't work as a deterrent. I understand there are other benefits to an SRO but what do you think the SROs at CES, HHES, and WMS are going to be doing more than 50% of the time? That argument doesn't work for me because there has never been a demand for an SRO until the armed guard debate came up. If you ask me, the focus should be on decreasing tactical response time and increasing the time you can hold back a security threat. Eventually those two should meet at a perfect point. It's also important that all people (students & staff) follow security protocols.
JAMIE HOWARD February 02, 2013 at 02:04 AM
why dont we have home schooling -american schools are failing because of these thugs called unions an over paid administrators. an work in a bubble. because in this country the americans has become complacent an paranoid what a shame they are winning over this once great country. just look at what is said so far on this patch you sound like a bunch of children . we need better- teachers -leaders- accountability most important -put GOD back in to our schools
Curious February 02, 2013 at 03:23 AM
Home schooling worked out just peachy for Sarah Palin, right?
Luca Duff Cruz February 02, 2013 at 04:40 AM
How is your President Mitt The Plutocrat Roomney, and Senatr Linda Ima Rich Bitch, working out for you? Dim wit?
Liz Kingsley February 02, 2013 at 02:27 PM
I mean retired people that don't worry about thier mortgage! Have the weapons concealed, a friendly face but ready for action, they have to be physical fit. Also have counslors who can spot out troubled children and sincerely talk to these kids to see what is wrong. Not just buying thier time, and also just by the book, work from the heart.
Steven DeVaux February 02, 2013 at 02:53 PM
Voice of Wisdom, The fact that he battled two wicked cancers had nothing to do with it eh? Live well my friend.
Steven DeVaux February 02, 2013 at 02:57 PM
Retired Educator, If gun control and SRO spending don't involve votes then yes, it's not politics - but they do and therefore it is politics. Being politics I offer the following observations over the years: If a Republican doesn't like guns, he doesn't buy one. If a Democrat doesn't like guns, he wants all guns outlawed. If a Republican is a vegetarian, he doesn't eat meat. If a Democrat is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone. If a Republican is homosexual, he quietly leads his life. If a Democrat is homosexual, he demands legislated respect. If a Republican is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation. A Democrat wonders who is going to take care of him. If a Republican doesn't like a talk show host, he switches channels.. Democrats demand that those they don't like be shut down. If a Republican is a non-believer, he doesn't go to church. A Democrat non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced. If a Republican decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it. A Democrat demands that the rest of us pay for his. If a Republican reads this, he'll forward it so his friends can have a good laugh. A Democrat will delete it because he's "offended".
Rob Gianazza February 02, 2013 at 03:20 PM
Interesting, no one from the Town or schools has responded. Perhaps these details haven't been worked out yet?
Rob Gianazza February 02, 2013 at 03:22 PM
Very good!
Steven DeVaux February 02, 2013 at 03:41 PM
If we place all young men between the ages of 13 and 25 in the military, arm them and send them forth to fight offshore wars, there wouldn't be the need for any of this. When has a girl shot up a school?
Rob Gianazza February 02, 2013 at 03:46 PM
Steve, you're treading into Title IX territory now. Didn't the armed forces just decide that women can be placed in combat units if they request it?
Steven DeVaux February 02, 2013 at 04:14 PM
Rob, Nope. I don't think so. That has to do with school offerings. I'm just observing a pattern of behavior that is unbroken. It's been all white, teenage and young adult males between the ages of 12 and 25. No girls involved to date - ever. That' says a lot. Now lets look at who plays the violent video games for years on end - which is the new variable entered into the mix in the last twenty years. There you have it. Not the girls.
Steven DeVaux February 02, 2013 at 04:15 PM
It did. You saw how public school worked out for Charlie Manson, no?
Steven DeVaux February 02, 2013 at 04:18 PM
WHAT!!?? Jamie that would DECIMATE the holy grail of high schools, the sports programs! That's UN-AMERICAN! Where would millions of teenage boys between the ages of 12 and 18 compete for the 500 jobs open in the NFL?
Kevin O'Connor February 04, 2013 at 06:50 PM
Steve, have you heard the famous song "I don't like Mondays"? It's a song based off of Brenda Ann Spencer, a 16 year old female, whom, in 1979, shot and killed two adults and wounded 8 children in a school shooting in California. So there's a female, who committed a school shooting more than 20 years ago (before violent video games).
Steven DeVaux February 05, 2013 at 11:10 AM
Kevin, I stand corrected, but she didn't use and assault rifle or high capacity clips.
paul gonzales February 12, 2013 at 01:43 AM
if you allow police in to the school system an on any school transportation- next step will be an I D check from town to town- its the beginning of a controlled government called a police state= its has happened in every society through out history. we are no exception. we must come up with an amicable solution. might i add this great nation we call america was built on volunteers
Steven DeVaux February 12, 2013 at 06:54 AM
That's what the new American fascists (the Democrats) want.
paul gonzales February 13, 2013 at 12:16 AM
i do not understand you steven want what ?volunteers or police state ?i
Steven DeVaux February 13, 2013 at 03:06 AM
Both. And in fascist countries they get both.
paul gonzales February 13, 2013 at 03:40 AM
what can be done if any thing. i think the american people are either ignorant complacent or just give a rats butt .all i see on this patch is a bunch of words that go no wheres there is a change coming an i do not like what i see

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