BERLIN - McGee Middle School has been without a school resource officer since January due to a staffing shortage in the police department.
The department, which funds the resource officer, is short five officers, Deputy Chief Christopher Ciuci said.
Officer Rich Doski has was temporarily reassigned to patrol duty “to get us through the budget year,” Ciuci said.
“We talked to people at McGee and they said he was not needed,” said Police Commission Chairman Robert Peters, citing a discussion with parents of McGee students earlier in the year.
He added that the department had been discussing pulling the resource officer for more than a year.
Peters acknowledged the recent shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17, but said without funding, the department’s hands are tied.
An officer won’t be able to go back into the middle school, nor will resource officers be placed in the three elementary schools, until the department receives the money to hire more officers, but that is up in the air, he said.
The high school still has its school resource officer, who has been doing a good job, Peters said.
An officer costs about $90,000 in salary and benefits, Peters said.
“We have an obligation to not spend more in the budget,” said Peters.
“It’s not ideal, but its not my place to make the decision,” said School Superintendent Brian Benigni.
Benigni said he would be open to discussion with the police department on ways to return the resource officer to the school.
Two officers are expected to be hired this month, Peters said. But with the training involved to get them up to speed, it probably will be another year before they are able to go on patrol.
The department has 42 members, Peters said. Since 10 officers have to be on desk duty, that leaves 32 officers for patrol duty, Peters said.
The McGee officer still spends some time at the school when staffing allows, Ciuci said.
“Officers go and in out of the building and do walk-throughs throughout the school day,” Ciuci said.
Staff writer Lisa Backus contributed to this story.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.