Backpack reaction

A backpack was left unattended on a transit bus traveling through Milford this week, and local police, fire and other emergency responders reacted in the only way they could: They shut down that part of the city and treated the backpack like a potentially dangerous weapon.

In the end, the backpack turned out to be nothing more than an item that someone forgot on the bus. Milford police said there were personal items inside, and there was no ill intent on the part of the owner. He simply forgot his backpack.

In light of recent tragedies, specifically in Newtown and Boston, police didn’t have any choice but to react as they did. Police Department spokesman Jeff Nielsen said local officials “absolutely” responded in a manner that was appropriate considering recent attacks on innocent people.

The incident unfolded Tuesday morning. A suspicious backpack was left on a public transportation bus and was noticed as the bus was traveling through Milford, on Bridgeport Avenue near Seemans Lane. Passengers saw the backpack and alerted the bus driver, who called police.

Occupants of the bus were evacuated. The Milford Police Department, Milford Fire Department and Connecticut State Police Emergency Services Unit/Bomb Squad were called to the scene.

Area businesses were evacuated and no traffic was permitted in the area during the investigation. Meadowside Elementary School, which is right in that area, at the corner of Seemans Lane and Bridgeport Avenue, was put into a lockdown, with all occupants remaining in the building and a police officer stationed at the school.

It sounds heavy-duty for a backpack, but it was certainly the right course of action and further proof that in today’s society, school resource officers are needed more than ever before. City and school officials have been discussing funding police officers, who would be stationed in Milford’s schools. A meeting was held earlier this week to share information about an SRO program, and to explain the program’s place in today’s society.

While there has been support for the program, lately some city officials said they believe support for the SRO program is waning, and that city leaders may not come through with the money to pay the $300,000 for the additional police officers.

A police officer was sent to Meadowside School Tuesday as the school was put into lockdown. Students were no doubt scared, and there is little doubt they would have been more comfortable if they were accustomed to having a police officer in their school at various times and felt that added sense of safety from knowing police protection was close by on a daily basis.

The public trusts police when there is an emergency, as there was on Tuesday. It seems foolish to question them when they are telling the city that there should be school resource officers in the schools. If the police, who are experts in this field, said today’s society requires school resource officers working inside the city schools, the city should believe them, accept that it needs to hire the officers and come up with a plan to pay for the new program.