CHATHAM, NJ - The Borough of Chatham Council heard from citizens and let every member of the council weigh in before adopting an ordinance that authorizes the appointment of armed Class III law enforcement officers with a 5-1 vote on Monday at its regular meeting.
Council member Jocelyn Mathiasen was the only no vote, as she was when the ordinance was introduced, maintaining her stance (see the video below) that there should not be armed officers in Chatham schools.
The Borough of Chatham Council still needs to approve a shared services agreement with the Chatham Board of Education before a Class III officer can be hired. The Class III officer will become a member of the Chatham Borough Police Department, but the officer's salary will come out of the BOE budget.
The Chatham BOE approved the hiring of the officers in October and Chatham Township has since approved a shared services agreement with the BOE. One Class III armed officer from Chatham Township will be assigned to Chatham High School, Lafayette School and Southern Boulevard School.
The plan is for an armed officer from the borough to cover the Chatham Middle School, Milton and Washington elementary schools.
Council member Thad Kobylarz said that he was originally opposed to the idea, but after speaking to law enforcement and Chatham Superintendent Michael LaSusa, he changed his mind.
"I was opposed to it at first, but I've come to the conclusion, on balance, that given the environment we currently are in that this is the sensible way to go," Kobylarz said.
Council member Bob Weber pointed out that the discussion has been going on for quite some time and that the school board made the formal request to hire a Class III officer. See his remarks below.
Chatham resident Bill Heap has opposed the hiring of armed officers and said that it was a "top-down" decision made by the district administration. He took his own "anecdotal" survey on the subject over the summer. He said that in his 30 years living in Chatham, there was not one second in which he didn't feel safe. See his remark below.
Chatham resident Duncan Carmichael, a student at Seton Hall Prep, said he was opposed to armed officers in schools.
In other business, the council adopted an ordinance, 6-0, that will establish 18 overnight parking spaces on South Passaic Avenue to accommodate the residents of the apartments at 49 S. Passaic Ave. Residents of the apartments will be able to apply for the purchase of an overnight parking decal.