I read with approval, in The Westerly Sun’s Saturday, Feb. 24, article, “Westerly Middle to get new resource officer,” that Westerly soon will re-establish a full-time school resource officer at Westerly Middle School. However, in light of the most recent school shooting in Florida, I do not think this step goes far enough to ensure the safety of all of our students. I strongly urge the members of the Westerly Town Council immediately to fund, recruit, train, and position a school resource officer in all Westerly schools, to include St. Pius Regional Academy.
As a former member of both the Westerly School Committee and the Town Council, I do not make this recommendation lightly. I know such action will have a permanent and significant impact on the town’s budget. I know such action will prevent, or at least postpone, other, well-deserved programs from being funded and implemented. But, I do not think Westerly should delay placing resource officers in all of our schools.
In relationship to other communities, Westerly is a very safe town. However, the world has changed significantly in the past decade. School shootings, once unthinkable, have become much too common an occurrence. We can never predict if and when some looney tune, committed to whatever twisted rationale or ideology they believe in, would want to attack one of our schools. And while we can all hope that such an action will never occur in Westerly, “hope” is not a course of action. Stationing resource officers in all our schools is an action that could deter and respond immediately to any attempt to harm our students.
There are some additional advantages of having more resource officers, above that of the protection of our students. When schools are not in session, resource officers could be used to perform other important duties. They could be used to augment traffic and parking enforcement in the area of our beaches, an issue that has had significant discussion in the past months. Resource officers could be assigned to right-of-way patrol and enforcement, ensuring persons using right of ways do not trespass onto the private property of those citizens with homes adjoining them. A resource officer could be assigned as an assistant harbormaster, a position I feel will be necessary to implement fully our Harbor Management Plan.
I urge the Town Council not to delay in this matter. Do not hold discussions on dual utility poles or have meetings to yet again revise the council’s Rules of Procedure. Immediately schedule and hold hearings on establishing resource officers in all of our schools.