Weston police chief asks board to consider school resource officer

Weston Police Chief John Troxell

Weston police Chief John Troxell would like to see a school resource officer (SRO) in the Weston schools. To that end, he brought the subject up at a school board meeting on Monday, Dec. 17.

He also planned to discuss it at a special meeting of the Police Commission on Tuesday, Dec. 18 (after The Forum’s deadline, covered in next week’s Dec. 28 issue).

On Monday, Chief Troxell explained that his main reason for wanting an SRO was for the safety of children, parents, and school staff.

An SRO is a police officer who is assigned to a school or multiple schools. The officer acts not only as an enhanced security measure to maintain a safe school climate but also becomes involved in the students’ lives as a positive role model. Many SROs teach classes as well.

While Weston currently has police officers stationed on School Road — “the mile of safety” — a few hours a day, an SRO would do more inside the schools than out.

Not ‘knee jerk’

The SRO issue is surfacing just days after a gunman forcibly entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and shot and killed 20 children and six adults — when sensibilities about security at public schools are heightened. But Chief Troxell said he has been thinking about creating an SRO position for some time and his proposal is not a “knee jerk” reaction.

Rick Phillips, Police Commission chairman, agreed. “We’ve been talking about getting an SRO for three years now, but it’s always been a budgetary issue,” he said.

Chief Troxell said he realizes an additional police officer would raise the Police Department’s budget line, but said, “You can’t put a price on the safety of children. If this is just about money, you have to consider what our priorities are.”

Newtown, he said, is being described by the media as a “small, country town. … That sounds just like Weston,” he said.

He would like the school board, Police Commission and Board of Selectmen to work together on getting an SRO in the schools in the upcoming fiscal year.

In addition to the SRO, the chief also plans to request an additional full-time officer for the department.

Earlier this week, First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said she has always been “fully supportive of having a police resource officer” in the schools. She cautioned, however, that “we need to have the full conversation we need to have rather than being reactive” to a specific situation.

Study under way

Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer said the school board is currently studying SROs, and will be visiting Darien to see how that school system utilizes one.

In an opening statement at the meeting, Dr. Palmer said in light of Newtown, Weston schools are reassessing their security practices.

“In a crisis situation, every second matters,” she said.

There is a plan, she said, to formalize the entryways at the schools so everyone has to buzz in, and the schools will be more diligent about having visitors sign in and wear ID badges.

While some parents suggested installing bulletproof glass in the windows and shutting down School Road, Ms. Palmer said she does not support such drastic measures. “We’ll do all things that are prudent,” she said.

She asked  the police to devote an officer full-time to School Road. She also requested the board consider hiring security officers for each school.

During public comment, parent Yvonne D’Aquino asked if the security officers would be armed. “No, they would not be armed,” Dr. Palmer responded.

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