The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting sent shock waves to nearby Monroe which continue to reverberate. Town police officers and other emergency responders assisted Newtown on the day of the tragedy, and now officers have beefed up security at the relocated school on Fan Hill Road, as well as Monroe's own schools.
"We had an unprecedented challenge face us," Police Chief John Salvatore said. "We are collaterally affected by this, because of the location of this school. We have an obligation to make that school as secure as possible. We are doing all we have to do to provide a sense of security."
Salvatore told the Police Commission at its meeting last week how the town will have to figure out a way to pay for all of the overtime in the existing budget. Town Finance Dir. Carl Tomchik is tracking expenses and the possibility of any state or federal reimbursement is being explored.
The shooting, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults, has caused anxiety among families in both towns, according to Salvatore.
The chief has yet to make a formal budget proposal for fiscal year 2013-14, but he said an increase will be driven by a request for three new officers.
Currently, Jockey Hollow Middle School and Masuk High School are the only town schools with a dedicated school resource officer (SRO). The new officers would allow for a continued police presence at all schools until three officers complete the SRO training.
Salvatore said this request is to meet public demand for safer schools.
The hiring of new officers would increase line items for salaries, uniforms and equipment. But Salvatore said the department is keeping older police cars longer, so any increase in that line item can be kept to a minimum.
Debating the Need
Police Commissioner Bernard Sippin, who owns Sippin Energy and commercial real estate in town, noted how people in the private sector have to tighten their belts, adding the public sector should follow suit.
"Did an increase in population justify three more officers," he asked.
Salvatore said, "At this point in time, people want safety in schools."
"If Newtown moves out of this school, you won't need these officers. Right?" Sippin asked.
Salvatore said, "This proposal addresses the Monroe schools that don't have an SRO. I'm responsible for making sure these are secure environments. I see this as a long term commitment to Monroe."
Commissioner Ed Deak said people have been asking him about costs. He recommended that a letter be written outlining the responsibilities of the new officers, not just in the upcoming budget, but also going forward.
Chairman Ronald Villani agreed that the commission needs to explain the need.
Some commissioners asked what an SRO does after school and during summer vacation.
Capt. Michael Flick said SROs normally do patrol work after school and use their vacation time in the summer. They also fill in for other officers who are on vacation at that time, saving the department on overtime, Flick added.
The number of calls are among the factors driving a need for more police officers, according to Deak. While major storms factored in, he said police received 3,100 more calls this year for a variety of things.
Of Monroe, Deak said, "It's not the same place I moved to 35 years ago."