PATERSON — After a lockdown at the John F. Kennedy Educational Complex in Paterson over a report of a person with a gun inside the building, off-duty police officers could soon be able to work security at district schools.

The board of education will consider the plan at its meeting Wednesday, which will provide training for police before they take on their potential extra duties. Dalton Price, the district's Security Chief, praised the response of the private security currently used at Paterson schools despite being short-handed.

“The staff shortages that have been impacting organizations throughout the country have been impacting our district’s Security Department, but we are fortunate that our security team has been working since July to increase the number of professionals to protect our students and staff,” Superintendent of Schools Eileen F. Shafer said in a statement.

More training for officers

Officers will first be trained for school work as their approach needs to be different within the schools.

“Uniformed officers are trained professionals who have been educated at a police academy, but the approach to doing their job in a school has to be different,” Price said. “These officers will be focused on building relationships with the students and with people throughout the school communities they serve.”

The school district, in their statement about the plan, said the officers would be used "at no additional cost to the district." District spokesman Paul Brubaker told New Jersey 101.5 the officers would be paid $36 an hour.

Off-duty but still "on the job"

Although the officers will be considered to be off-duty, they will still be doing their jobs as police officers.

"When they begin working in schools, they will be doing their jobs, equipped with everything they need to do their jobs – including service weapons – and focusing on community policing in order to establish and maintain the best relationships possible with students and staff they will serve," Brubaker said.

Police officers were used in the past for school security but gradually phased out in favor of using a private company, according to Paterson Press.

The report of a gun was unfounded, according to Paterson police.

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