Police Pitch Plan to Put Officer Back in Cinnaminson Schools
Does Cinnaminson need a school resource officer again? The school board is considering a plan, and it might not cost taxpayers.
Members of the Cinnaminson Board of Education are considering a proposal that would put a police officer back in the school system, while having—most likely—no immediate impact on the tax rate.
It's been three years since the district had a dedicated school resource officer (SRO), a program that was ended due to a lack of funding from the township. Cinnaminson Police Director Mickey King pitched a plan to the board Tuesday night to reinstall an SRO for the 2013-14 school year, who would float between the district's four schools.
The program would be a further extension of the department's focus on community policing, King explained. "We're committed to the children in this community. We want to keep that positive influence with the police with the students."
In the proposal before the board, the district's share of the officer's salary and benefits (totaling close to $107,000) would be $75,000—since he'd be spending most of his year working within the school system—and the rest would be picked up by the township.
Board members raised concerns about the consistency of the police protection, pointing out that there were gaps in coverage with previous SROs due to vacations and training, for example.
King said this time around the officer would be unable to take time off during the school year (except during designated school holidays), to ensure the district had consistent coverage. And also, as opposed to previous years, the officer would be assigned to cover all of the school buildings.
Board President Jean Cohen questioned whether the district might be better off bringing in a retired police officer through a private agency. King explained a retired officer is, legally speaking, just a private citizen and wouldn't have the same powers as an active police officer.
Superintendent Salvatore Illuzzi said the district had explored the possibility of using private security in the schools and it was estimated to be roughly 25 percent cheaper. But Illuzzi advised against that option.
"Having a police presence in uniform is a better deterrent," he said. "A police officer can actually take charge in an event, as opposed to a retired officer, who really can't pull the weight of a police officer."
Illuzzi also clarified that the SRO would not "supplant what the police are already doing in the schools, but would be a logical supplement."
Illuzzi and business administrator Thomas Egan said the SRO could be funded by pulling funds from the district's reserves, which would have no impact on the tax rate for next school year. The board approved a tentative budget Tuesday that includes a 3.8¢ increase to the tax rate.
"I am sure the board is not going to approve (an SRO) if it has any impact on the taxes," said Illuzzi.
The board didn't take any action on the proposal Tuesday. Illuzzi said the matter would be kicked back to committee and discussed by the full board at their March 19 meeting.