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Murphy Questions Whether an SRO Program Would 'Criminalize Behavior' in Milford Schools

During a visit to Foran High School, Milford Police Chief Keith Mello addressed Senator Chris Murphy's concern about criminalizing behavior, saying, "I think you've seen the trend go the other way."

 

During a trip to Milford Friday morning, Senator Chris Murphy spoke with Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Feser, Police Chief Keith Mello and Mayor Ben Blake about plans for added security in the wake of the elementary school shooting at Sandy Hook.

While will be added to Milford elementary schools, the City is exploring the idea of adding School Resource Officers, officers are specially trained police officers who carry guns and become part of the school's environment, to Foran and Law, as well as to the middle schools. 

Murphy asked Chief Mello and Dr. Feser how they would deal with the concern that police officers in schools could "criminalize behavior in schools."

Chief Mello responded by saying that they were creating a program "that fits the needs of Milford."

"There has been a lot of discussion in the past about criminalizing behavior in schools, is that appropriate. I think you've seen the trend go the other way. I know in Milford we have a criminal diversion program," Chief Mello said.

"There are a lot of things that need to be handled within the schools," Chief Mello continued. "And that's a conversation that we'll have." 

"I share your concern," Chief Mello told Senator Murphy, "but I think we'll address that in our program appropriately."

Milford Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Feser seconded Chief Mello's comments, saying that "it's really the administrators that really take the lead in respect to making the decisions around schools."

"Unless a crime--a serious crime--was committed," Dr. Feser added.

Concerned Parent January 25, 2013 at 07:20 PM
This is the wrong approach and will not prevent a repeat of Sandy Hook.
Michael Brown January 25, 2013 at 08:05 PM
It seems the word "criminal" is being used as shorthand for "criminalize." That said, is the chief suggesting that some criminal behavior in a school should be handled as a disciplinary issue? Does that include possession of narcotics or physical assaults?
Ryan Sartor (Editor) January 25, 2013 at 08:23 PM
Hi Michael: Yes, that was a typo on my part. I meant 'criminalize.' This ACLU report on SRO's points to the idea that certain school issues, such as students fighting, could be handled internally through suspensions or even expulsions or could be dealt with by involving the police. Dr. Feser, Chief Mello and Mayor Blake have been in talks about finding the right balance between what behavior is dealt with internally and what becomes a police matter. Here's that ACLU report if you want to take a look: http://www.aclu.org/pdfs/racialjustice/hardlessons_november2008.pdf
Michael Brown January 25, 2013 at 08:29 PM
Here is another article on the subject. Is School Safety A Cop In Every School? http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/is_school_safety_a_cop_in_every_school/
Ryan Sartor (Editor) January 25, 2013 at 08:39 PM
I imagine the Board of Aldermen will be discussing the issue at their next meeting on Monday, February 4th at 7:30 p.m.: http://www.ci.milford.ct.us/public_documents/milfordCT_commcal/S01A057C2?formid=161&repType=Monday,-February-4-at-7:30-PM
Michael Brown January 25, 2013 at 09:15 PM
Must be missing something. Don't see the agenda you are referring to.
David Chesler January 25, 2013 at 09:37 PM
If the SRO is armed, the school won't be a gun-free zone.
State Representative Kim Rose January 25, 2013 at 09:55 PM
Dr Fesser made it quite clear at the meeting that staff is in charge of the children; dealing with day to day issues and discipline, the police would not become involved unless it was a "real crime" was committed. It was a great question that was asked by our Senator. His visit and thoughtful questions throughout the morning proves his sensitivity to these complex issues.
Concerned Parent January 26, 2013 at 04:54 AM
People are making this a complex issue by bringing in armed "resource officers" into the school. Introducing guns, via a hired staffer, to deter someone coming in with a firearm will NOT prevent a repeat of Sandy Hook. I'm sorry, this is an ass-backwards solution. This town's leadership is about to transform our schools into a high-security learning facility rather than simply making physical changes to the entrance ways to prevent unauthorized access into the building. Our children deserve better than this. Our children deserve to go to school and have a healthy and happy learning experience. Not being faced by onsite security every morning.
JE January 26, 2013 at 01:50 PM
Ed, you've made your point of view abundently clear and I think you have to accept the fact that not everyone is goign to agree with you. Saying that placing one School Resource Officer (armed or unarmed) in each high school and perhaps one or two others who will float among the other schools will turn our schools into "a high-security learning facility" is a stretch. Maybe do a little research on exactly what the purpose and intent of an SRO is. The fact that this comes on the heels of a tragedy muddies the waters a bit in my opinion, but the fact is, high school SROs have been discussed in this town before and our high school students are already "faced by onsite secruity every morning" by way of the two security guards each school already has. Security, safety and school culture all go hand in hand. It's a multifaceted problem that needs a measured approach from many different angles, physical changes being just one of them. The schools already all have locked doors and buzzers and policies to prevent unauthorized access. And what about recess? Do we keep the kids inside all day long in a tightly secured facility? I call that a prison. Dr. Feser has announced additional physical measures will be taken. In my mind it's like a puzzle and all the little pieces fit together to form the whole approach.
JE January 26, 2013 at 02:14 PM
Are you sure our schools are a gun-free zone now? Students are prohibited from bringing weapons into the school. What about adults with permits to legally carry a firearm?
Concerned Parent January 26, 2013 at 02:32 PM
@JE...I have children in all levels of the Milford schools, from elementary to high school and actually listen to them when they come home off the bus. You'd be surprised how insightful they really are. Proposals are being made that will affect their perception of school, not yours or mine. People fail to realize this. My view is not that over the top as I've done work in analyzing and addressing these types of vulnerabilities for a living by handling projects to address them in different industries. This is no different. If you analyze every incident involving shootings in schools or elsewhere, the security gap is the same across all of them. That is, the capability of accessing these buildings with weapons. Do some research and you will see for yourself.

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