Massena Central mulling addition of armed officer on campus
By ANDY GARDNER
North Country Now
MASSENA -- Massena Central is looking to become the latest area school to add an armed in-school police officer, a position school officials generally refer to as a “school resource officer.”
In a phone interview on Wednesday, Nov. 7, Superintendent Patrick Brady said they are in an exploratory phase, with a subcommittee researching options. District officials are also in talks with Mayor Tim Currier and Massena police Chief Adam Love that the superintendent characterized as “preliminary.”Brady said if the district goes this route, he’d like to see the police officer armed but primarily not there to arrest students in the halls.
“If we go forward with the program, I do believe the officer should be armed. One of the purposes of having a school resource officer is providing security for students and staff. I think it would be a great disadvantage for an officer not to be armed,” Brady said.
He said he also feels the officer should be primarily armed with a firearm that fires lethal rounds, rather than less-lethal rubber bullets or a stun gun like a Taser.
“Part of the reason of having an officer is to deter threats of violence, of school shootings we’ve seen across the country. If a potential perpetrator is going to have lethal weapons, it would be an unsafe situation for a school resource officer to not be armed,” Brady said. “Obviously we all hope something like that never happens and we continue to heighten our security every year. This is another aspect of it. We have to look at every possibility to keep our students safe.”
Brady said he would not want to see the officer making arrests in the halls for everyday misbehavior, only if it’s a dangerous situation where they would have called police to arrest the student anyways.
Arrest power is “not the purpose of having the officer in place,” Brady said. “We’d like to see, one of the reasons for providing a school resource officer is to develop positive relations with students to prevent issues before they arise. It’s really not to get into arresting students unless there was a serious and dangerous issue that arose, in which restraint and arrest was critical.”
He said they are looking to fund the position with part of a $64,000 Title IV grant they received, part of which he said can be used for “safe and healthy schools.” They would likely spend $30,000 to hire the in-school police officer.
“One of those options that’s frequently used by schools is to enter into an agreement with a local police department whereby the department would provide the officer and the district would fund or provide funds,” Brady said. Canton and Potsdam each now have an armed police officer patrolling their halls.
The district has had a police officer assigned as a school resource officer in the past. Officer Patrick Serguson, who has since retired and is now a local justice, patrolled the school from 2002 to 2007, Brady said in March. The officer spent most of his time at the high school and J.W. Leary Junior High, where Brady at the time worked as a school administrator.
In the Wednesday, Nov. 7 phone interview, Brady referred to the program as “very successful.”
The officer’s position and pay would have to be approved by the Board of Education, and it is now being studied by a subcommittee of their District Safety Committee.
“Once we have all the information we’ll formulate some conclusions and present them to the Board of Education, and of course the Massena village board as well will need to be involved if we go in the direction of partnering with Massena Police Department,” Brady said.
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