LONG BRANCH: The city's police department will be hiring new officers to add an extra level of security the Long Branch School District.
Long Branch Police Chief Jason Roebuck said the city, police department and school district have begun exploring a partnership to place armed, retired police officers in schools in the near future.
"Having an armed officer in the school does not guarantee anyone's safety, of course," Roebuck said. "But it is another layer of security, and the most effective security systems have many layers. The current security that the school provides will still also be in place, and the officers will work hand in hand with them to enhance the overall security presence.
Roebuck explained that the position is called a Class 3 Special Officer, is a newly created position that was made lawful last year.
"It allows the Department to hire recently retired Police Officers (from any town) and State Troopers to work as security in the schools for the 9 months of the school year," Roebuck said. "They would work for and would be under the direction of the Police Department, with input from the School System."
The officers are not able to arrest or discipline students, but they will be interacting with students every day and will be in uniform. Roebuck said regular police officers have been in the schools to talk with children over the last few years so students should not find the change to be alarming.
"While we do not have any Police Officers assigned to the school on a full time basis as an SRO (School Resource Officer), our officers have been walking through the schools and interacting with the students for 2 years now, without a single problem or complaint," he said. "This will continue."
The Class 3 officers will have to go through SRO training to work in the schools.
Roebuck said the officer's salaries have not yet been set but that they will be "significantly less" then a full time officer with a few years of experience. They are also not eligible for pension or healthcare benefits.
Mayor Adam Schneider said he was initially not in favor of the program, but now feels it may be a good thing.
"We've been working together for years to make sure the schools are safe but after the shootings in Florida there are additional concerns," Schneider said. "I have serious reservations about bringing guns into a school but after talking to (Long Branch School District Superintendent Michael) Salvatore I believe that the parents and students will feel and actually be safer."