Tonight’s discussion concerning school resource officers may not be the “big beef” the first selectman had been worrying about.
Police Chief John Roche is seeking to clarify his position on adding school resource officers in advance of tonight’s meeting with the Board of Selectmen.
He felt he was misrepresented in a story on The Press website — based on the selectmen’s discussion at last night’s budget meeting, a similarly reported by other media — that said Chief Roche and Police Commission were determined to fill two long-standing vacancies in the department’s regular shifts before adding the new school resource offices requested by the Board of Education.
“My concern is that when I saw the article, it addresses that there’s a line drawn in the sand, and there’s not,” Chief Roche said.
He said his goal in conversations with First Selectman Rudy Marconi and Controller Kevin Redmond had been to alert them to position of the Police Commission, the elected body which oversees department and has said restoring the regular officers is the top staffing priority.
The selectmen reached a consensus not to restore two frozen officer positions at a cost of $138,000 next year, but hadn’t yet taken a firm a stand on the officers requested by the schools in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown.
“I said ‘You need to talk to the Police Commission about that.’ The Police Commission is the governing body of the Police Department,” Chief Roche said.
“…The Police Commission can look at me and say, ‘John, we’re going to approve the SROs and this is what we’re going to do with these officers.’ And you know what? ‘Yes, sir.’ ”
The chief said it was not his place to dictate budget decisions to the elected boards and commissions in town.
“…I can’t say, ‘You’re not getting this unless I’m getting that,” he said “…It’s above my pay grade.
“My intent was not to say ‘You can’t do that unless you do this.’ It was ‘Please, you need to talk to Board of Police Commissioners.’ My phone call was to encourage that conversation.
“My hope was: Great, we were going to sit down and discuss this.”
Chief Roche also said he supported the idea of school resource officers, and had worked with School Superintendent Deborah Low when she was putting together her request for two more — the school system’s second and third SROs — after the shock of the Newtown shooting.
He said he’d already arranged for two veteran officers to train as SROs.
And, he wanted to set the record straight.
“This thing is getting blown out of proportion and I want to stop it,” he said.
“There’s no line drawn in the sand. No, it’s not my decision: It’s the police commission’s. And my hope was to start a discussion between the boards, so they can establish a plan of action.”