The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

Parents tell board they want armed police in schools


By ANTHONY R. MANCINI


A handful of area residents called upon the Bedford town government to station police officers at Bedford Central School District’s four campuses in town, after the district’s superintendant recommended such measures at a Jan. 22 public hearing.

Bedford Village resident Jeff Szymanski, a parent of a child attending Bedford Village Elementary, was one of those who voiced concerns.

“I think that if you’re a potential terrorist, you’re thinking about what your highest success rate is and your easiest prey,” he said. “Your easiest target is the target you know has no protection.”

James Noone, a Bedford resident and parent of a child attending Bedford Village Elementary, said at the hearing that schools within Bedford may attract trouble if they fail to post a police officer in schools like in communities such as Pound Ridge.

“If there are other towns that post a cop car in front of the school, I’m concerned about the random terrorist that drives to Mamaroneck or Newtown or Pound Ridge and because the cop happens to be there, he goes to Bedford Village and there’s no protection,” he said. “The random, copycat, schizophrenic terrorist might choose Bedford Village because you have not placed an officer in front of that school.”

Bedford Central’s superintendant Dr. Jere Hochman said in a letter addressed to the Bedford’s town board that he wants the town to provide a police officer and a squad car or an unarmed security supervisor to the campuses containing the Fox Lane high and middle schools and the Bedford Village, Bedford Hills and West Patent elementary schools. This request comes after the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 children and six faculty members before committing suicide.

“We have hundreds of parents right now that I have on a petition that want police officers as an intricate component of their schools,” said Pound Ridge resident John Sauro at the Tuesday hearing. “The parents have told me, if the town boards do not act on this and they are negligent in this area, there we’re going to hold everybody personally responsible if something were to happen to one child.”

Town supervisor Lee Roberts said at the hearing that Bedford Central should fund its own security officers, as the district recently agreed to foot the bill of a resource officer already assigned to the Fox Lane campus. Previously, Bedford’s budget covered the expense.

“When we’re talking about the welfare of our children, no amount is too much, but I think it’s a district expense. The district crosses over municipal lines,” she said. “Forty percent of the children come from Mount Kisco, 20 percent come from Pound Ridge and 40 percent come from Bedford.”

Bedford Police Chief William Hayes did not recommend the town agree to Dr. Hochman’s request for the officers, but he did say at the hearing that Bedford’s force is stretched thin due to budget cuts and the retirement of seven officers in 2012.

“Since 2008, 2009, we’ve been forced to make reductions due to the economy, so our current budgeting strength is 40. For the moment, due to retirements, we are actually operating the department at 28 sworn officers,” Chief Hayes said.

The chief said at a minimum, Bedford’s police department commits at least three officers to patrols 24 hours a day, with at least one in every hamlet. He said the department is able to accomplish this with a short staff by requiring officers to work overtime. Additionally, he said that since the Newtown shooting, the department has been focusing its patrols more on Bedford’s schools and day care centers, 29 in total, at the expense of patrols in other areas.

“We’ve done that by diverting resources away from other areas: train stations, movie theaters, commercial districts, shopping centers and neighborhoods in order to maintain the extra visibility of the schools,” the chief said.

Mr. Sauro said the superintendent has requested Bedford to station officers at the schools because of the district’s own budget issues and said fast action needs to be taken.

“You have the largest congregation of people in any given day in these schools and these are the most vulnerable people,” he said. “The school’s security in the past several years has been so absent. It is astonishing to me how I could walk in and out of these schools without being approached by anybody.”

Chief Hayes said that to position any officers at the Bedford Central’s schools and maintain the same level of patrols throughout town at the same time, the department would have to first complete hiring additional officers, a task that is under way, but takes months.

“Should you authorize the request from the Bedford Central School District, the earliest implementation date that we could see would be towards the end of this calendar year,” Chief Hayes said. “We need to add an additional five officers to handle things like days off, training, court, illness, vacations as well as vehicles for the fleet. The personnel cost is approximately $800,000 per year. This does not include uniforms, equipment or training.”

The chief also said that while officers stationed in schools provide a deterrent to crime in general, he said officers at schools are not necessarily effective in dealing with a school shooting. He said that a police officer was present at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colo. when in 1999 two students shot and killed 16 and injured 21.

“More than 50 percent of the school shootings in the Unites States have police officers at these campuses,” Chief Hayes said. “Most of the time when there is an attacker on campus, the attacker targets the officer first. Remember most school buildings have multiple entry points. Typically attackers are just going to plan around the extra presence of the officer.”

Town councilman David Gabrielson said at the hearing that he has received dozens of emails opposing police patrols in schools. He cautioned against reacting too hastily to the Newtown shooting and said additional police presence at schools may not be necessary, as mass shootings are infrequent.

“Generally speaking, these school-aged kids don’t get murdered that much,” he said. “I think the probability of it happening in any particular school is infinitesimally small.”

Mr. Gabrielson said if the town stations police officers all day at Bedford Central’s schools, officials might be required to provide equal protection to the Katonah-Lewisboro School District and other areas.

“We’re being asked to spend over a million dollars a year to protect against a risk which is very, very small,” he said. “It raises the question of whether we’re supposed to have an armed police officer at all of the town pools everyday during the summer or at the movie theaters or at churches.”

Town councilman Francis T. Corcoran said at the hearing that he is willing to support extra security measures at Bedford Central, such as bulletproof doors and windows. He said the district should enforce more safety procedures.

“It’s very alarming to me when I hear that right after Newtown and all the protocols that are in place, kids can come back to visit from college and walk into our high schools and not even be touched or checked,” he said.

However, Mr. Corcoran questioned the effectiveness of stationing of an officer permanently at the school. He said the Fort Hood, Texas shooting, where an Army psychologist was accused of killing 13 people and injuring 29, happened despite taking place at one of the largest military bases in the world.

“If somebody is bent on doing it, it will be done,” Mr. Corcoran said. “I don’t think that having a police car sitting at an entrance with an armed police officer is going to stop somebody from coming in another way.”

The town board did not act on any of Dr. Hochman’s recommendations. Town councilman Chris Burdick said the town might issue a formal statement to Bedford Central in the future to communicate the belief that the school district is responsible for any security costs and personnel.


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January 25, 2013

‘Pops, Patriots and Fireworks’

Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    


Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    


Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


Katonah

  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road


Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    


Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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