Press-Republican

October 28, 2013

Pact to place resource officer in Malone schools again

By DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

---- — MALONE — A school resource officer will be restored in the Malone Central School District under an agreement with the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office.

“This is something we’ve been talking about ever since Sandy Hook last year,” said Superintendent Jerry Griffin, referring to the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., when 20 children and six adults were killed.

He said he and District Attorney Derek Champagne brought together other members of a safety team with representatives from Franklin County Emergency Services, the Sheriff’s Department, Malone Village Police and the State Police “to kick it around” and find the best way to place a trained, uniformed and armed peace officer within the school system.

Griffin said Champagne pitched the idea to the School Board when the 2013-14 budget was being discussed last spring.

The School Board set aside $30,000 a year for the position.

LASTED THREE YEARS

The Salmon River Central School District has a resource officer, but that position uses an officer from the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police and is paid for by the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe.

Former Malone Village Police Sgt. Bruce Cox was the Malone School District’s resource officer when the program began in September 2000 with a $120,000 grant the department received through the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program placed 599 such officers in schools across the country.

It lasted for three years, but when the grant money ran out, the position was abolished despite heavy lobbying within the community to have the Village Board start funding the program.

CAN HIRE RETIREE

In restoring the position, the district wanted to contract for the protection services rather than add a district employee.

The DA’s Office researched the provisions in the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (SAFE Act), which allows an armed police officer or peace officer on school grounds.

Retired police can be hired because they retain their certification for a year after retirement.

Between the second and fourth year of retirement, the person must re-certify in firearms and first aid, and those in the fifth to 10th year of retirement must get partial police-academy training again.

After 10 years of retirement, the officer must go back for full police-academy training.

Retirees can earn a maximum of $30,000 a year unless they obtain a waiver under Social Security law.

The person would be designated as a special patrol officer under Civil Service law and must have a pistol permit. The weapon, uniform and insurance would be covered by the DA’s Office.

'DISHEARTENING'

Griffin said no one has been hired yet, but the officer would primarily be assigned to Franklin Academy High School with some work in the Middle School if a situation warranted it.

He also said the person might also have duties in each one of the district’s elementary schools as well.

Another school shooting earlier this week saw a 12-year-old kill a teacher and wound two students before he turned the gun on himself at Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nev.

Griffin said that news prompted him to email his building administrators and remind them that “this would be a good opportunity to get their safety teams to meet and evaluate their school safety.

“It just makes you stop and think about the one-year anniversary of Sandy Hook,” he said. “It’s disheartening.”

Email Denise A. Raymo: draymo@pressrepublican.com