MORE DISTRICTS GET SCHOOL OFFICERS —Sheriff Rob Maciol and County Executive Anthony Picente kick off the Oneida County Safer Schools initiative at Whitesboro Middle School. Five districts have joined Whitesboro in sharing costs of special patrol officers with Oneida County, officials announced Sept. 10. (Clinton Record photo by John Clifford)

Five schools add special patrol officers

Published Sep 19, 2018 at 4:00pm

Five new school districts have taken up Oneida County’s offer made earlier this year to pay for half the cost of special patrol officers providing security in schools, County Executive Anthony Picente announced Sept. 10.

The districts are Camden, Westmoreland, New York Mills, Waterville and Sauquoit Valley.

Camden and Westmoreland are taking on four patrol officers and the others two each. They join the Whitesboro district, which first hired the special officers in 2016 and how has 14 throughout its schools.

The part-time special patrol officers are described as highly trained and armed retired law-enforcement officers. They are assigned and paid through the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office. Each costs approximately $19,000. The county is paying half the cost with each district and covers the $4,000 start-up cost for officer uniforms and equipment.

Picente raised the issue in April, and the Oneida County Board of Legislators approved a $500,000 allocation and the creation of new positions in July.

School districts in Rome, Utica, New Hartford and Oriskany have arrangements with their respective police departments. Other schools may join on, as only about half the appropriation is spoken for to pay for the 28 current officers.

Picente announced the addition of the five schools at Whitesboro Middle School, which served as the model for the program. He said he was motivated to seek the funding by what he viewed as a lack of action to address violence across the country.

“As I watched the seemingly never-ending news stream of school shootings and violence inflicting pain, loss and fear on our nation’s children, parents and educators, I knew we had to act where others were not,” Picente said in a statement.

Similar special patrol officers are also assigned to non-school posts, among them the Department of Social Services and Family Court facilities in Rome, the county office building and Union Station in Utica, and Central Arraignment Court in Whitestown.

In addition, six school resource officers provide educational and counseling purposes among schools in Holland Patent and Westmoreland, and the Oneida-Herkimer-Madison and Madison-Oneida BOCES.

Superintendents said the special patrol officers are part of efforts to address school violence, which may also include work such as examining mental health services, safety procedures and general security.

Westmoreland schools have had a resource officer from the Sheriff’s Office spread among its facilities since the 1999-2000 school year, but the county support means the district will have a security presence in each building at the same time, according to Superintendent Rocco Migliori.

In Camden, Superintendent Ravo Root said the two patrol officers are accompanied by an ongoing review of district mental health services.

“While our school district, like so many others, takes steps on a daily basis to keep our students and staff safe, this program is one more layer of protection,” Waterville Superintendent Charles G. Chafee said.

Whitesboro Superintendent Brian Bellair said the special patrol officer program has been an integral part of safety and security, with the county funding “extremely helpful” in allowing the district to maintain its participation.