Superintendent of Schools John Macero and Police Chief Terence Delehanty requested funding for the deployment of a resource [police] officer in the Winthrop public schools.
Town Manager James McKenna presented the $29,000 fund request on their behalf during his report at the Town Council meeting Tuesday night. The officer would work in the position at the schools through the end of the current school year in June, 2014.
“The case they made to me was pretty impressive,” said McKenna. “I know the schools have for some time this fall been dealing with numerous issues regarding student behavior, bullying, and some very sensitive matters.”
McKenna said that Delehanty has been very much involved in the investigation of events of concern at the schools as well as developing strategies for dealing with these issues.
Macero and Delehanty determined that the best course of action would be to have a police officer present during school hours at Winthrop High School or the Winthrop Middle School.
“[They felt] this is something that’s urgent, giving the numerous events that they’ve had to deal with and the level of intensity and impact that those events have on the children’s lives and their family lives. They feel a resource officer is essential to anticipating certain events from occurring and helping to keep the lid on conditions and improve conditions so kids can get on learning.”
Delehanty said that over the last two years he and Macero have been working on many security strategies for the school system. The Police Department has also been involved in lengthy investigations of school-related matters.
“It’s a lot easier being a school resource officer and coming from that environment as a patrol officer – the need is to have a steady relationship with the community, the school community, and these kids,” Delehanty told the Council. “It’s someone who can intervene and knows that someone is saying something nasty. Before it gets to the criminal level, the school resource officer intervenes early enough on that it becomes a social encounter and he resolves it.”
Delehanty said “there is a lot that we want to be doing for the safety of the children and the community” and a school resource officer would fill that key role.
Macero said that in education “one of the strongest things is about relationships and we need to create that relationship with our students and our police officers.”
“The students’ job is to come to learn and our job is to make sure that they’re safe and that they’re protected to learn,” said Macero. “But sometimes we can’t be the eyes and ears of everything that happens and bullying is a huge issue.”
Councilor Russell Sanford supported the resource officer proposal.
“I know that there have been past situations where we had a resource officer and situations have been avoided,” said Sanford. “I think not having a resource officer puts us in jeopardy not only physically but in some cases emotionally.”
Councilor-at-Large Phil Boncore said that if the Council deemed the issue to be “an emergency situation,” the Council could approve the resource officer proposal with a unanimous vote of the seven councilors present at the meeting. However, Councilor Craig Mael indicated that he would not vote in favor of the proposal at this time.
“I am not against it. I assume there is some value to it,” said Mael. “I just think we should have a good laid- out plan. I don’t see any reason to move quickly tonight because that would not change it all.”
The Council referred the matter to the Finance Committee for further review.