The period for retired and certified Connecticut police officers to apply to become one of nine Newtown school security officers (SSOs) is closing at month’s end. Police Chief Michael Kehoe told The Newtown Bee this week that he has already received numerous applications for consideration.
Officials including First Selectman Pat Llodra have previously said that a number of qualified retired officers are already working for the school district as unarmed security guards, and most if not all were thinking of applying for the SSO posts.
But Chief Kehoe said that all applicants will receive equal consideration on the merits of their experience and one other key attribute.
“They really have to like and have a genuine interest in our kids,” Chief Kehoe said of the SSO candidates. “On any given day they could be spending time with students from prekindergarten through 12th grade, so it’s important that they can work in that environment.”
It appears that after the pilot communities of Enfield and North Branford, Newtown will be among a few new communities adding this layer of protection to their school district landscape. Chief Kehoe said that Newtown’s application, hiring, and training practices will be guided by Connecticut Pubic Act 13-188. That legislation stipulates the only armed security personnel a state public school district or municipality can employ as an SSO would be an active or retired certified police officer.
Any retired police officer retained for SSO service in the state must receive annual training and successfully complete annual firearms training provided by a certified firearms instructor that meets or exceeds the standards of the Police Officer Standards and Training Council and related enabling statutes.
Chief Kehoe said that he is awaiting word on assigning Newtown SSOs to a state-approved training program, and he hopes state level training of those officers will be completed by early August. That way he and Newtown police personnel can work with school security management to complete additional training specifically related to local practices and policies.
“We expect to conduct additional firearms training on our range, and possibly combine training along with school security management,” Chief Kehoe said. Newtown will also furnish all specialized equipment and uniforms the SSOs will be required to possess when on the job.
Newtown SSOs will not require special vehicles to do their job, he added.
“Each SSO will arrive for duty in their own vehicle, and all patrol work in the course of their day will be on foot, on the premises of the school where they are assigned,” he said. “I don’t foresee a need for the SSOs to travel much between schools.”
Beside the nine SSOs Newtown will be employing this school year, three full-time and specially trained school resource officers (SROs) will be assigned to the local school district.
“Our SROs will have separate duties and bring separate and expanded skills to their jobs,” Chief Kehoe said. “The only time they might work alongside SSOs would be during a specific incident response.”
The local job description for SSOs indicates the hourly rate of pay will be $21 per hour. These are nonbenefit positions.
Once the nine Newtown SSOs are hired, trained, and equipped, their responsibilities will primarily involve surveying assigned areas for illegal activities, suspicious behavior, or dangerous situations. They also provide an authoritative presence while promoting safety and order, according to the job posting.
Subject to the provisions of any applicable federal and/or Connecticut law, essential duties and responsibilities of a school security officer will also include:
*Controlling the entrance and exits of visitors, students, and employees;
*Meeting and greeting students, staff, and public in positive manner;
*Confronting unauthorized persons for questioning and taking appropriate action, if necessary;
*Calling police for assistance as needed;
*Reporting any inappropriate activities or unauthorized persons on or around school property to appropriate personnel;
*Assisting visitors with directions;
*Monitoring building premises, and;
*Responding to serious emergencies and other serious security concerns.
The SSOs will be authorized to use deadly physical force to protect themselves or any other parties when they reasonably believe that such other person is either using or about to use deadly physical force, or inflicting or about to inflict great bodily harm, as defined by statutes governing use of physical force in defense of [a] person.
The new hires will be expected to engage in the detection and/or prevention of any unauthorized activity on or around school grounds, including but not limited to the unlawful intrusion or entry on school property, vandalism, abuse, arson, trespass etc; the description states.
Additionally, school security officers shall not have any access to any student record information, as defined in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, except as authorized by such Act.