New Milford police chief asked to reconsider funding school officer
At the Town Council meeting Monday night, McCormack was clear that the department's 10 percent budget cutback for this year required him to set priorities as two patrol positions were left unfilled and a third officer position was left vacant due to military duty.
In addition, the Town Council eliminated what McCormack considers a key administrative post that he has since been able to finance through state and federal funds. The latest was a federal grant for $30,000.
To accommodate such losses, McCormack decided to reassign the school resource officer at Schaghticoke Middle School and the full-time DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer at Sarah Noble -- Officers Pete DeLouis and Kevin O'Neill -- to patrol duty.
The full-time high school resource officer Donald Woods was retained.
The Board of Education two weeks ago voted to cover the salary of the Schaghticoke resource officer because staff and board members felt it was such a crucial position to have in the school. That position is slated to be filled in November. DeLouis is a likely candidate.
The Sarah Noble position, though, has not been restored.
Almost all of the Town Council members said they favor returning an officer to Sarah Noble if money can be found to make that happen. Though not all agreed on whether or not the position should promote the DARE curriculum, most felt that the police presence in the school is critical to children in the fourth through sixth grades.
But McCormack said he would need the money -- be it a grant or other allocation -- to fund an extra position to make that happen.
Even then, McCormack said he would favor the post be more of a school resource officer than one connected to the DARE curriculum. From his expertise, police officers in schools are now focusing more on issues such as bullying, peer pressure, and gang violence and its correlation to substance abuse, McCormack said.
O'Neill and members of the public spoke in favor of the DARE position, not only because of the drug education but because of the bonds the officer has been able to forge with students at such an impressionable age.
McCormack, as well as several council members, said they want input from school officials on how they would want an officer to be used in that school.
Council member Ray O'Brien said it is clear that the council favors a restoration of this position and that a closer look needs to be given to "have that happen.''
In the end, Mayor Patricia Murphy was directed to talk with school officials and the chief to see how this position might somehow be funded. She agreed to come back next month with some ideas.
"I don't see anything else taking its place,'' said Council member John Lillis.