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RED BANK: SCHOOL COPS ON AGENDA

red-bank-middle-school-081519-500x332-6476558The middle school, above, and primary school would each have a school resource officer onsite when in session, said Chief Darren McConnell. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

Action that would put a police officer in Red Bank’s primary and middle schools is up for approval by the borough council Wednesday night.

Here ‘s the agenda at a glance:

• The council will consider adoption of a resolution authorizing a shared services agreement with the board of ed to put a school resource officer (SRO) into the primary and middle schools beginning with the new school year in September.

Under state Attorney General guidelines, SROs must be retired police officers who have completed a one-week training and certification program for the job, said Darren McConnell, who serves as both interim borough administrator and police chief.

The SROs work part-time, under the direction of the chief, McConnell said at the council’s  July 13 workshop session.

“Their primary purpose is to essentially harden the target of a school, especially in a critical incident, to respond immediately,” McConnell said. “And beyond that, just to have a presence in the school every day.”

McConnell said he and schools Superintendent Jared Rumage began discussing the program several years ago, but the COVID-19 pandemic disruptions to put the matter on hold.

Now, students and staff are back to regular attendance at schools, and “some recent events around the country have sparked this conversation,” he said. “So we both think it’s a good idea for the safety of the schools and the community aspect to it to having a police officer involved with the kids on a daily basis.”

He said the officers typically dress in khakis and polo shirts, and function not as “security guards towards the students and staff, but on their behalf.”

The SROs only have authority on school grounds, he said.

Under the agreement, one officer each would cover the primary and middle schools whenever they’re in session. That would mean hiring three part-timers, each of whom would work 120 days per year, he said.

McConnell said Red Bank Regional High has had an SRO provided by the Little Silver police department for “years, and obviously it’s worked out really well.”

Councilwoman Jacqueline Sturdivant sought assurance that the SROs would have training in “diversity, equity and inclusion, because a lot of these SROs have been targeting people with disabilities, and particularly, minorities.

“I just want to be sure they have that the person. you’re hiring is going. to have that type of responsibility, and understanding and fairness,” she said.

McConnell said the AG’s guidelines require diversity training as well as de-escalation training as part of the certification process.

Mayor Pasquale Menna asked for a five-year financial impact forecast of the program. McConnell said the cost was estimated at $90,000 to $108,000 per year, with the school district picking up half.

The police department has funds from a patrol position that went unfilled for three months, “so we have more than enough in our budget to cover the first four months,” McConnell said.

The Red Bank Charter School and St. James/Red Bank Catholic High School have not requested SROs, but if they asked, it would be up to the council to approve separate shared services agreements with them, McConnell said.

• The council may also authorize a request for proposals for a borough attorney.

Led by Councilman Ed Zipprich the council voted 4-2 July 13 to terminate attorney Greg Cannon, without explanation.

But when Zipprich moved to replace Cannon with Scott Salmon, Menna angrily refused, invoking his prerogative as mayor to make the appointment, leaving the council without legal guidance.

Here’s the full agenda. The 6:30 p.m. meeting will be both in-person and remote, via Zoom. Access and participation details can be found here.

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