Beacon Schools Consider Police Presence

Police chief pushes for school resource officer

By Jeff Simms

The Beacon police chief has recommended to the school board that it allow him to assign a police officer, known as a school resource officer (SRO), to the district.

In response, board members and administrators say they want more input from the public before making a decision.

Chief Doug Solomon (file photo)

Chief Doug Solomon, accompanied by an SRO from Poughkeepsie, spoke at the board’s Aug. 28 meeting, with Solomon commenting that school safety is “one of the things that keeps me up at night.”

In an interview this week, Solomon said his proposal wasn’t made because of disciplinary problems at any of the Beacon district’s six schools.

“This is in response to issues that are more global than that,” he said. “The district is not where it needs to be regarding safety plans.”

Beacon Superintendent Matt Landahl, in his first year with the district, said he has worked with school resource officers in the past and recalled “countless” times he conferred with the officers on safety and security.

He, too, stressed that the officer would not be brought in to “to fix some problem” at Beacon High School or anyplace else. But in his experience, “it always went better and was less complicated” when an officer familiar with the schools was called to diffuse a volatile situation.

In Beacon, the officer that Solomon said he would assign is a 10-year veteran of the department and has completed state training required of school resource officers. He would float between the five schools within city limits. (A sixth school, Glenham Elementary, is located in Fishkill.)

When the Beacon school board discussed the idea again at its Sept. 11 meeting, members were split. President Anthony White said it would improve safety, but Antony Tseng, echoing comments by a number of parents, said the board should consider the implications carefully before stationing a police officer in the schools.

“How is he going to click with our system here?” Tseng asked. “Is he going to participate in all our culture shifts that we’re trying to do, or is he going to be a bystander in that?”

In Cold Spring, the Haldane campus has had a Putnam County sheriff’s deputy as a school resource officer since the fall of 2015. Prior to the county Legislature approving the hire, the debate centered mostly on the expense of adding the position. For the 2016-17 school year the officer cost the district about $77,000.

City Administrator Anthony Ruggiero said Beacon would pay half the cost of the school resource officer if the board approves the assignment.

4 thoughts on “Beacon Schools Consider Police Presence

  1. I’m surprised it has taken this long to have this conversation, especially with the many potential security threats our communities face on a daily basis.

    Schools in our country face many potential threats, including drugs, gangs and various levels of violence. Lawmakers have taken the active shooter threat so seriously that all schools have been required to upgrade their passive security features to include access control and response drills. While those policies will provide a higher level of readiness and safety for the active shooter scenario, they often rely on school personnel, who specialize in education, not security or law enforcement, to create and implement them and do nothing to control or mitigate the other potential threats that exist.

    Providing a School Resource Officer (SRO) could be considered Community Policing for a very vulnerable portion of our greater community. It would allow for a law enforcement specialist to become an integral part of the already amazing team of professionals that interact with our children every day they are in school. It would allow for networking and positive relationship building between law enforcement personnel, school district staff, and students, as well as provide law enforcement with specialized knowledge of the buildings, the building’s occupants, and the policies and guidelines under which they work.

    The high school I graduated from 20 years ago had a Sheriff’s Deputy as a SRO. The Deputy was dedicated to the high school, which educated over 2,000 students annually, and was able to deter or mitigate many threats over the years, not only due to his presence, but because of his familiarity with the students, the staff, and the issues they faced on a daily basis. While Beacon School District staff are amazing and put forth their best each day, it would provide me with an extra level of comfort to know that my two daughters (one in high school, one in elementary) are protected by the measures that only a School Resource Officer can bring.

  2. I have worked in schools for years where there was a SRO. Several questions should be addressed and discussed including: Should the officer be in uniform? Should the officer carry a weapon? Is there a well-developed job description for this position? Will the officer only interact with students when there is difficulty? Will the officer be available to mentor students that have struggled in the past? Who in the schools will the officer report to? Will the resource officer have an office or will he or she be floating around the various schools? Who in each school with the SRO report to? Has the candidate for this position had experience in schools? What did the training the candidate received entail?

    Although I have many opinions about these questions, I think that an open dialogue is the best way to decide about an issue as important at this.

  3. This concept was brought up during the 1990s and it should have been implemented back then. It is a great idea and would benefit the school district, the community and the police department. This concept is presently working in many school districts all over the country. It is not a new concept.

  4. In a letter to the community dated Sept. 15, the day our story was posted, Superintendent Landahl said that, in his experience, “an SRO brings a higher level of problem-solving, collaboration and outreach” to schools.

    However, he added that “one piece of feedback that rang true was from a community member who suggested that I spend more time in the schools in my duties as superintendent before I make a recommendation like this to the board. That is a valid point. At the time of this writing, it is only my eighth school day. With that in mind, I will complete a more thorough assessment of our safety practices and administrative work.”