WESTFIELD, NJ — Westfield's board of education voted Tuesday to expand the district's school resource officer position next year from part time, as it was this year, back to full time, as it was a year ago.
The armed police officer, based at Westfield High School, has responsibilities that include providing assistance in programs for peer mediation and peer leadership, assisting school personnel in dealing with emergencies and assisting in truancy investigations.
Because of budget issues last year, the board voted last June to cut the SRO position to two days a week, which made a “huge difference,” Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan said at Tuesday night’s board meeting.
BOE member Mitch Slater, who has spoken against hiring an armed officer in schools in the past, was the only person to vote “no.” Slater remained adamant that bringing a gun into the school was not the smartest way to maintain a safe environment.
“My views from previous years have not changed that I cannot support an armed policeman school resource officer at Westfield High School. I continue to believe that the funds would be better allocated towards an SAC — student assistance counselor — or mental health professional instead of an armed officer,” Slater said.
“As a criminologist at University of Maryland recently wrote in a research project on this topic, ‘There is no evidence that placing officers in the school improves safety and it increases the number of minor behavior problems that are referred to the police, pushing kids into the criminal justice system,’” Slater said.
The SRO’s salary next year of $100,000 will be split equally between the school district and the Westfield Police Department. The police departent has authority over the officer, who is subject to all rules and regulations and policies of the PD. He has undergone training as an SRO.