B y Krystle S. Morey

A decision by the Granville Central School District to hire a full-time police officer was agreed to by the Village Board Monday night.
The policeman will serve as school resource officer (SRO) and rotate between patrolling each of the school district’s three education buildings, retrieving truants and helping out with classroom instruction.
Part-time Granville officer Dave Williams was chosen for the job in a 3-1 board vote. Trustee Frank Caruso voted no, and Mayor Brian LaRose was absent.
Williams’ beat will primarily be the schools, but he would be on-call as a village officer in the event of an emergency. Williams will be paid $18.72 an hour.
The district will pay $30,000 to the village, which will cover the officer’s annual salary and any other costs, including worker’s compensation, if necessary.
The village will also be responsible for the cost of any SRO training required. There is a week-long SRO training that the state offers, which Williams has not attended, but he said he would.

Dave Williams

Dave Williams

Caruso voted against hiring an SRO because he said there are “still a lot of questions that have not yet been answered.”
“The school is dumping all of the responsibility on the village financially … training and everything,” he said. “And I don’t like that.”
Caruso was also concerned because he didn’t know who would be giving Williams direction or establishing a schedule.
“If he is going to be a village police officer, it should come from the chief, but knowing the way they work over there, the school administration is going to be saying, ‘we do this here, and this here,’ – nowhere is it clarified,” he said.
The main responsibilities of an SRO consist of law enforcement, and law-related counseling and education. The officer would have the authority to go and pick up students at their homes if they are absent from school.
Students looking for help with issues from getting orders of protection to paying for parking tickets and learning how to safely dispose of expired drugs can consult the SRO.
“There are a lot of ‘how-to’ legal questions that police officers support the general public with, and they would also support our kids,” said school Superintendent Mark Bessen.
There is also potential to incorporate an SRO into the schools’ curriculum.
An SRO, Bessen said, would benefit students in several subjects including science, health, physical education, English and history. He mentioned that the officer could help educate students on crime scene investigation, how to write a police report and identifying important details, understanding the constitution and learning CPR, for example.
Teachers would be able to request the SRO’s help with specific units.
“They are already doing this,” Bessen said. “They come in to help us with presentations in D.A.R.E. with drugs and alcohol, and they come in and do the pre-prom party and take the kids out with the goggles and golf carts and show them the dangers of drinking and driving and texting and driving.”
Mayor Brian LaRose said previously that hiring an SRO to work in the schools “is a great idea.”
“Anything that we can do in the school to assist our kids in their education, their well-being, their ethics, all of those kinds of things, are a good thing,” LaRose said.
The district could not hire its own SRO because, if hired by the school, the officer would not be able to fulfill as many duties. By hiring a village sworn officer, that official would have arresting power and be able to carry a firearm and pepper spray.
“If we were to hire our own, we would basically be hiring a monitor,” Bessen said. “…and he wouldn’t be able to do … anything but walk up and down the hallway.”
“That’s not what we are looking for,” Bessen said. “We are looking for someone that is going to enhance our educational system, be another contact in the school for our children, and also be a resource for parents and kids.”
Also, if there was backup needed with an incident in the village, the SRO – being a sworn officer – would be able to assist the Granville Police Department, whereas a school-appointed monitor would not.
The district chose to partner with the village, instead of another law enforcement agency such State Police, because the students are familiar with the local officers.
“Those officers have been doing PBA- and D.A.R.E.-type things,” Bessen said. “Even during the summer, the chief is over there visiting the kids at Summer Rec.”
Specifying a village officer as an SRO enables that officer to help the school out with other internal needs, including attendance.
The Board of Education OK’d the hiring of an SRO at its meeting last month.
“This is a great idea and I am fully in support of it,” board President Audrey Hicks said at the meeting.
Bessen said having an officer in the school would help the district connect better with its students, so they “feel comfortable with the officer, knowing that the officer is there to help.”
“It’s not only when things are wrong,” he added.
Board member Greg Bourn, who used to work as a Granville police officer and a school D.A.R.E. officer in the Granville Elementary school, said being close with the kids allowed him to build relationships with them.
“You learn certain things from kids – like that kid might be having trouble at home – where you wouldn’t otherwise know that,” Bourn said.
“It’s that extra adult, that extra connection … that the kids can go to for help should they need it,” Bessen said.
Bessen said he has experience working with an SRO from his time with the Saratoga and Lake George school districts.
“Police can pick up on when kids are, just like our regular faculty does, a little off (when they are agitated or using drugs or alcohol) and take them aside and say, ‘hey, let’s take a walk,’” Bessen said. “I saw it happen in Saratoga many-a-times… I saw it happen in Lake George.”
The Granville Police Department is already helping the school with “spill-over” issues, including Facebook spats.
“That stuff comes to school,” Bessen said. “The police are already dealing with this stuff in our school. The difference is, by having this officer … we are not pulling a police car off of the streets of Granville and hurting that coverage.”
Chief Ernie Bassett recommended that the SRO use a village police cruiser when on duty at the schools.
“Having a police car parked out in front of the school is a deterrent to some of the most extreme things we could be presented with,” he said.
The village board has yet to determine if the SRO will use a police cruiser.



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