Epping School Board supports proposal to reinstate its school resource officer
The board voted unanimously on Thursday to support a town warrant article seeking money to hire a new officer in a move that would allow the police department to then assign one of its experienced officers to the school district on a full-time basis.
While the proposal will appear on the March ballot, a majority of selectmen voted not to support it at a meeting on Dec. 17 because of concerns over town and school spending.
The position would cost $35,570 for the second half of next year and then $76,350 for all of 2014. The police department had a school resource officer in place until 2002, when it was short-staffed and had to place the officer back on patrols.
School board member Gregory Dodge, the town's former police chief who is now town administrator, said police began discussing the idea of reinstating the position with the dean of students from Epping schools before the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
"It's been a work in progress and I'm sure some people are going to think that it's a big opportunity for the police to add to their patrol and get someone back into the school. That was never the intent. It's something (the police department) wanted to do for a long time," Dodge told the school board.
Police Capt. Jason Newman said the armed officer would not only deter crime, but also build up a rapport with students and serve as a resource for them and the staff at the elementary, middle and high schools.
School board Chairman David Mylott said reinstating the officer isn't an "emotional" response to the Connecticut tragedy. He said the district had an officer years ago and supported the position.
"It is something that I support from a very objective standpoint," he said.
One of the challenges, Mylott said, is that "we all have a tendency to want to react with an emotional response and I think we want to be cautious not to do that and I think the district and the town has done a very good job of being able to step back, as difficult as it is, and maintain objectivity and say, 'OK, let's evaluate. Let's look at this with a rational eye,'" he said.
Selectman Bob Jordan was unable to attend the selectmen's meeting when the board voted 1-3 against recommending the officer's position, but said he supports it.
"I am concerned for our tax rate and wish we weren't looking at all the financial issues in front of us. I feel that protecting our kids to be a priority," he said.