The First Selectman's Budget proposal for 2013-14 includes just over $5 million for the Monroe Police Department, a $367,945 increase. This story focuses on the main driver, personnel.
The horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School brought out parents' worst fears and demand for higher security in schools is at an all time. It is in this atmosphere that Monroe is allowing Newtown to use the Chalk Hill building as a school. Monroe police officers provide security there, keeping out journalists and onlookers, as well as maintaining a presence at the town's own schools.
Monroe parents joined the nationwide push for safer schools, leading to calls for improvements such as sallyports with buzz-in systems, better surveillance cameras and procedures ... and more police officers.
Monroe currently has a school resource officer (SRO) at Masuk High School and Jockey Hollow Middle School. Due to increased community demand, Chief John Salvatore is asking for three new officers for the town's elementary schools.
The three officers would add $139,725 in salaries and $8,800 worth of equipment to the operating budget.
"As a result of the Sandy Hook incident, policing has changed in this area," Salvatore told Town Council members during a budget workshop Wednesday night. "We're expected to create a sense of security at these schools, but don't have the resources."
In addition to having officers in Monroe's five schools, Salvatore has two more stationed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Fan Hill Road and has had to use overtime to pay for it all.
"The U.S. Justice Department is a potential funding source," Salvatore said, adding his hope that Monroe's unique situation of taking in and securing Sandy Hook Elementary School will be considered when it requests reimbursement money.
The police department's budget also asks for $78,550 to hire two new full-time dispatchers to enhance the morning and evening shifts with two working at the same time during peak hours.
"For the most part, we have one dispatcher in that building," Salvatore said. "It can get extremely busy for a dispatcher. If something like Newtown happened in our town with one dispatcher, that dispatcher probably would be overwhelmed with people on the phone calling for help in other jurisdictions."
The chief also pointed out that more cameras at the schools mean more monitors for dispatchers to watch. "We need capable eyes to be on these monitors when we need them," he said.
Capt. Michael Flick said the job has changed. For instance, a car accident that would have led to two phone calls years ago, results in "multiple calls" because people have cell phones. He added that dispatchers need to be highly trained to handle the job.