Discussions continue for school police at Middlesex
DARIEN — Discussions have been restarted between the Board of Selectmen, the police department and the school administration about how to hire a school resource officer for Middlesex Middle School, and how it can be accomplished in an efficient amount of time.
“With the beginning of school always brings, these days, concerns over school safety,” First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said at the selectmen meeting on Monday.
The Board of Selectmen was contacted months ago by several parents lobbying for the addition of a school resource officer at the middle school. In April, the Board of Education voted to support the idea of an SRO at Middlesex. The plan is to bring one officer to Middlesex, just like Darien High School has officer Bryan Wallman.
“Most members including myself are very supportive of that initiative,” she said. “... I want to assure parents we are all working together to make sure we have the best possible system in place.”
Originally, the plan to put a school resource officer at Middlesex Middle school was tied to the idea of adding more civilians at the police department, Stevenson said in a followup interview.
“If we were to add civilians to the dispatch center, we might be able to free up personnel and re-deploy them to other areas,” she said.
Now, however, the goal is to separate the two objectives and look for a way to place an SRO at Middlesex Middle School, but not have it tied to hiring more civilians at the dispatch center. Stevenson said they wanted to hold off before committing to any additional hirings for the dispatch center, but didn’t want to potentially hold up discussions for an SRO.
“We had to try and solve the SRO request in another way,” she said.
Now that school has started, Stevenson has also scheduled meetings to discuss the most efficient way to getting this done.
“I will be meeting with school personnel and police personnel, and the outcome of that meeting will be made public,” she said. The personnel meeting is scheduled for Oct. 24.
If an SRO is ultimately added, the position would be part of the town budget. Police Chief Ray Osborne said a rough estimate for one police officer in Darien is $100,000.
Stevenson said discussions surrounding the budget have not been held yet, and whether this will affect the budget is to be determined.
“There may be other ways to find efficiencies,” she said. “We haven’t really gotten into discussions.”
Stevenson said, to her knowledge, there has not yet been a desire for a SRO in the elementary schools.
Though they are working to approve an SRO as soon as possible, the selectmen still have to figure out how to deploy a staff member and ensure there is someone on the police force who can do the job.
“Now the board, the police commission and the selectmen are really talking about how this gets staffed,” BOE Chairman Tara Ochman said. “ ... It’s a collaborative process and we’re happy to do this.”