Stonington police officials outline planned school security spending

Stonington - The police department would use a proposed $100,000 appropriation in the 2013-14 budget to continue an increased police presence in the schools and increase department training in the area of responding to school shootings.

Police Chief J. Darren Stewart, flanked by current and past members of the Board of Police Commissioners and several of his officers, outlined his plan to the Board of Finance this week.

Since the Dec. 14 Newtown school shooting, Stewart has used money saved by not immediately replacing a retired officer to increase the presence of police officers at the town's six public and two private schools.

But he said additional money is needed in the 2013-14 budget to sustain the effort.

"(It) is clear that we had to do something more than what we've done in the past," he said.

"We've seen that a violent act can happen in any town at any time," added Board of Police Commissioners Chairman Scott Bates.

Stewart had included the $100,000 in the budget he submitted to the town, but First Selectman Ed Haberek cut the allocation to $1, saying he first wanted to see a plan developed in conjunction with town and school officials that spells out exactly how the money will be spent.

The finance board will decide whether or not to restore the money when it begins its deliberations on the proposed budget on March 13. Stewart stressed the money would not be used to hire any new officers but rather would pay to deploy existing ones.

He said that $17,000 of the $100,000 would be used to conduct training that would review the department's protocol for responding to a school shooting and train officers for such an incident.

"We hope to God it never happens, but we want to test our protocol," he said.

Bates pointed out that, with the exception of the $100,000 request, the budget is about the same as it is now.

He said that the department has been part of a task force of town and school officials that have been reviewing emergency protocols, improving infrastructure and increasing police presence in the schools. He called the increased school presence "a measured response that has been welcomed by educators."

But Bates said additional funding is needed to continue it.


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