WEST ORANGE, NJ — Former West Orange police officer Bob Verzi urged the mayor and members of West Orange Township Council on Tuesday to cut other projects if needed to fund greater police presence in the schools.

“This is an issue for the ages,” said Verzi. “Shop Rite has guards in the front protecting the tomatoes. We need to have armed people in the schools protecting our most valuable possessions—our children.”

Verzi added that he was not in favor of giving the teachers guns, which he said would make matters worse.

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Casalino thanked Verzi for bringing this issue to the council with such passion.

“It’s sad that in this day and age that kids have to be fearful about going to school,” said Casalino, who is the council’s liaison to the West Orange Board of Education (WOBOE). “We have to be proactive on this matter.”

Casalino said that many good ideas came out of the Safety and Security Forum held in February, including ways to improve communications between the schools, parents and police, and the need to have a greater presence of police and school resource officers. She said there is also ongoing testing to bring more plain-clothed officers into the schools.

“Right now, we do a pretty good job of securing our schools,” said Business Administrator John Sayers, who added that bringing more plain-clothed officers into the schools and having more officers stopping by has been helpful in making township schools safer.

According to Sayers, any additional full-time police that need to be hired for school security would have to be authorized in the council’s budget. He said that the hiring of additional part-time police and security guards at the schools could be authorized by the WOBOE.

“We have to give the perception that we have secure schools,” said councilman Victor Cirilo. “We must deter anyone who is thinking about harming anyone in our schools.”

To read about the student walkout that was held at West Orange High School on Wednesday to honor the victims of the Parkland shooting, click HERE.  

Pictured above during the meeting:

Councilman Jerry Guarino congratulates West Orange resident Albert Guadagno on his 100th birthday.  

Jim Fitzpatrick (second from left) receives a façade grant check on behalf of Fitzgerald & Crouch Law Firm from Downtown West Orange Alliance leaders, from left, Mike Brick, Megan Brill and Ron Raymond. The $1,952 check will be used to improve the law firm’s façade.