These NJ districts are adding armed cops after Parkland shooting
Less than two weeks after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, more than a dozen districts across New Jersey have introduced plans to bring armed officers into schools.
Just one day after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman High School, East Brunswick announced it would add armed officers to the local district's security plan.
Monroe and Edison also followed suit in Middlesex County.
School districts already have security plans in place and are required to perform at least 10 drills during the school year to prepare for a fire, building intruder and bomb threats, among other scenarios.
But following the Feb. 14 shooting that left 17 students and teachers dead, parents and school officials have been considering further measures, including installing metal detectors and arming guards.
The Edison Board of Education on Monday approved an agreement with the township to have armed officers in the schools. The district will pay off-duty cops $40 an hour. The township will assign a police captain at no cost to supervise the officers at the school.
Even before the tragedy in Florida, Howell Police Chief Andrew Kudrick had already worked with the local governing body to increase school security by starting the school year with special officers in district buildings.
Kudrick said the addition of special officers was not a dramatic change for students or parents.
The chief said the officers are designated as a special class that have "full police powers once they're in the school," as opposed to officers who have jurisdiction throughout the municipality.
A job listing on the township's website described a Class III special officer as a retired police officer at the local, county, or state level who is also in good enough physical condition to do the job. They also have to have been retired from their law enforcement career with in the past five years and have all the proper training needed to serve.
The cost is being split by the district and municipality.
"When it comes down to it, if a school district and a police department wants it bad enough, the money's there to fund it," Kudrick said.
Monroe superintendent Michael Kozak said on Facebook that hiring officers from the local department to serve as "temporary armed officers in each of our schools" would be "costly." The municipality, however, has agreed to absorb the cost of paying police to patrol schools "until the district is able to have our own armed security guards."
With the township paying for the officers, Kozak said the district will be able to look at ways of effectively funding full-time security guards.
Point Pleasant Beach
Point Pleasant Beach Police Chief Joseph A. Michigan also announced this week that officers would be placed at the shore town's schools.
"I want to reassure you that while the events in Parkland, Florida, could happen anywhere, we are trained, prepared, and ready to respond at a moment's notice," the chief said in a letter posted on the department's Facebook page.
Michigan said beginning Monday morning armed officers would be placed at the public and private schools in the town, and that they will stay there "for the remainder of the school year."
"They will be there in the morning to give 'high five' to kids as they walk in the door, walk the hallways during the day, sit down and have lunch, and play outside with our kids. We will be there all day, everyday!!!!" the chief wrote.
West New York
A plan to put armed officers in schools in this Hudson County town was hailed by the local police union.
"With recent school shootings and violent incidents, I felt it was a top priority to safeguard not only our children, but our teachers, staff and parents," Mayor Felix Roque said in a statement. "Working with the city's Board of Commissioners, we passed this important policy and we vow not to dismantle it for any reason. We simply cannot leave our schools without protection; we had to get ahead of any possible incidents."
Roque said he hoped to see "cities and towns adopt policy and police their schools."
Armed cops can make a difference
While the number of districts bringing officers into the schools is still relatively small compared to the number of districts in the state, Kudrick said it will be up to individual towns to decide if it is something they want to do.
"You need that support from all the different aspects of the community," he said. "Everyone has to work together in order to make these programs successful."
While some have questioned whether having armed officers in schools is the right approach, Kudrick said having them there can make a world of difference in a crisis situation.
"If something happens in that school, you would absolutely want an armed officer in that school to take care care of that threat in order to ensure the safety of your child who attends it," Kudrick said.
Whether it is an armed officer in the school or an armed teacher, as President Donald Trump has suggested, Kudrick said neither will completely eliminate the risk of a school shooting but it can be a deterrent and a help in an emergency. The chief also said he was not in favor of arming every teacher in schools, but rather a "certain segment of a school population" that was trained with how to react in emergency situations.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Monday a statewide effort to improve school security. The plan includes closer work between law enforcement agencies and studying reporting systems during emergencies. The State Police will also start unannounced visits to all 107 schools in towns where troopers provide police service.
"Nearly one week has passed since 17 innocent lives were taken during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” Murphy said. “Enough is enough. While state actions cannot replace the federal reforms that are needed, student safety comes first in New Jersey.”
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-353-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com