Learn about SROs

Milford residents who have a stake in the city’s public schools would be well served to attend the next Board of Education meeting, Tuesday, April 30, at 6:30 p.m. at Milford City Hall to listen to information about school resource officers and to then let city officials know how they feel about hiring them for the schools.

The school board meeting was originally scheduled for last week but was rescheduled so it could be held in a bigger venue so that more people could attend.

The school board members will hear information from Dr. Betty Feser, superintendent of schools, as well as from police Chief Keith Mello, relating to the details involved with implementing school resource officers in the schools.

So far city officials have had a lot to say about SROs.

Chief Mello has made it very clear that he wants to hire these officers to work in the school system. Although the number of officers desired fluctuates, officials initially said they would like four to five SROs to work in the city schools, with one at each high school and the others floating between the other schools.

It is estimated that it will cost about $300,000 to pay for four officers. The public has also learned that SROs receive additional training that makes them specially suited to work with school students, to act as mentors in a way and to be on the scene to help control day-to-day issues, like bullying.

Of course, the key reason is for protection. Even though SROs have been around awhile, Milford started seriously talking about them after the Newtown school shootings, which took the idea of school security to a whole new level.

After Columbine, Milford and schools around the country took steps to make schools safer. Milford school officials, working with police and fire representatives, instituted new safety measures. After Newtown, more safety measures were put in place.

School resource officers are the next logical step.

While Chief Mello has provided much information about the benefits of SROs and the need for them, what has been missing from presentations so far is the opinions of residents.

A few have spoken up. Former Board of Aldermen Chairman Thomas Beirne, mocking city leadership for making the police chief “sell cookies” to raise money to pay for the additional officers, said the city should make a solid commitment to hire them and budget for them. His cookie comment referred to the fact that so far there has been no budgetary commitment, only the chief’s efforts to find money within his budget and through new police programs to pay for the additional officers.

The opinion of the school superintendent, who said she wants to hire these officers, and the opinion of the police chief are probably the most weighty in this situation. The mayor, too, has said he wants to hire SROs. Still, opinions from parents, grandparents, students, and anyone else with a stake in the city schools ought to be heard.

We urge residents to attend the April 30 meeting to learn what they can about SROs. Learn what Milford proposes as far as the details: Will the officers be armed, will they wear uniforms, what kind of rotation will there be at the schools if indeed the SROs are hired?

We also urge residents to share their opinions, either at the meeting or in letters or emails to city representatives or to us at The Milford Mirror, milfordmirror@hersamacorn.com. Make your voices heard on this matter.