Gallivan Supports More Resource Officers in Schools

Gallivan: "Not opposed" to arming teachers, prefers resource officers

Mike Baggerman
February 25, 2018 - 9:00 pm
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - As the New York State Sheriffs' Association requests the state legislature to include funding for at least one armed resource officer at every grade school and high school in New York State, they're finding support from New York State Senator - and former Erie County Sheriff - Patrick Gallivan.

The calls for more armed officers in schools is one side of the many argued nationally about gun control in America following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14 which claimed the lives of 17 people. Other sides include adding armed teachers in the schools, raising the minimum age to buy a gun to 21, or to ban weapons. 

READ MORE FROM THE SHERIFF's ASSOCIATION AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE

"New York State has among the toughest gun laws in the country," Gallivan said. "What's discouraging to me is that we have elected officials in New York State, when things take place nationally, they see fit to talk about what should take place nationally instead of focusing on making our communities in New York State better. One of the ways we can make our schools safer and actually do something is to provide additional funding for school resource officers."

Gallivan said he'd like to see a statewide program which would have a resource officer in every school. 

He also said he "isn't opposed" to the idea of arming a school teacher as long as they're properly trained and licensed.

"I don't think there should be restrictions, including on school grounds," he added.

Gallivan emphasized that he prefers putting another resource officer in the school.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie didn't agree with the idea of adding a resource officer to the school, citing how the resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School failed to protect the victims of the mass shooting after he was found on video in a defensive position for more than four minutes. 

Speaker Heastie released the following statement in response to the New York State Sheriffs' Association request:

"We all share in the goal of providing our schools with the resources they need to make sure our kids are safe. But more guns is not the answer and never has been. The best efforts of a trained armed guard present at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School did not prevent the terrible tragedy that unfolded last week, which shows that a proposal like this will only provide an illusion of safety.

Instead, we should be addressing the root causes of gun violence by reducing the number of guns on our streets, limiting access to these deadly weapons and increasing mental health services to ensure the kind of healthy environment that will allow kids to grow and thrive. We live in a society where minors can't buy alcohol, but in many states are allowed to buy deadly assault weapons with very little effort. How many more mass shootings must citizens endure before we as a country finally have a serious conversation about the scourge of gun violence that plagues our communities?

More guns will not make us safer. We need to be talking about real solutions, and we need to pass common sense gun reforms that the majority of Americans support."

"It's very troubling," Gallivan said about the resource officer in Parkland, Florida. "What we've seen and what we've learned, while we don't know everything, it seems pretty clear there was a dereliction of duty of the officer down there who retired early. The sheriff down there was very outspoken that the school resource officer didn't do his job. It's terrible that it took place but I certainly hope it doesn't take away from the job that all good school resource officers do on a daily basis, especially those in this community."

LISTEN: Senator Patrick Gallivan on resource officers in schools and arming teachers

From the NYS Sheriff's Assoc:

The New York State Sheriffs’ Association today called upon the State Legislature to include in the 2018 State Budget sufficient funding to provide at least one armed school resource officer at every grade school and high school in the state.

“This will be an expensive undertaking,” said Wayne County Sheriff Barry Virts, President of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association, “but we owe it to our children, and their parents, to provide a safe place for education to take place.”

“We spend many millions of dollars to protect a relatively small number of judges across the state, as we should. Surely we can also find the money to protect our most defenseless people – the children we send off to school each day,” Sheriff Virts said.

There are about 4,750 public schools and nearly 2,000 private schools educating students in grades K through 12 in the state. The Sheriffs’ Association estimates that the cost of this proposal would be roughly equivalent to that of adding one teacher to each of these schools.

School resource officers (SROs) provide an armed police presence while building relationships with the school community. “The relationship of trust formed with the students often allows the SRO to gain critical timely information and intervene before an issue becomes an incident,” Sheriff Virts said.

The number of SROs has dropped in recent years due to the lack of local funding. Some schools already have SROs that are funded by the school district, the county government, or both. “The only way to assure that every student has the protection of an armed officer in close proximity is for the state to provide a reliable funding stream for SROs.  Many school districts and local governments are unable to do it due to tax caps and limited funding sources,” Sheriff Virts added.

Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy, who is a strong advocate for SROs in his county, pointed out: “Sadly, many times when law enforcement arrives at the scene of a school shooting, everything is over and all the police officers can do is help the survivors. With an armed officer on duty in the school, such an attack may be deterred, or at least terminated quickly and hopefully without loss of life.”

Sheriffs across the state work with their local school districts to “harden” schools as targets. This includes advising schools on hardware and protocol changes to better control access to school buildings, installing security cameras, conducting “lockdown” exercises, and providing “active shooter” self-defense training to school staff and students. Many schools are enrolled in the Sheriffs’ Association’s Rapid Responder program, which allows those responding to a school emergency immediate electronic access to critical information on the school’s layout and infrastructure, staffing and student personnel. “All of these preparations are important,” Sheriff Murphy said, “but the MOST important thing we can do is to get an armed deputy or police officer into every school immediately.”

The Sheriffs’ Association acknowledges that there are many ways to approach this issue. Each school district and law enforcement agency would have to figure out what works best in that district. Some have indicated a preference for stationing an armed security officer at a single school entry point.  Others, including Sheriff Murphy and Warren County Sheriff Bud York, support the use of retired law enforcement officers as an economical way of getting well-trained armed officers into schools.

“Any of these would be better than nothing,” said Sheriff Virts. “Most Sheriffs feel the BEST solution is to assign active deputy sheriffs or other active police officers to the schools as SROs who would have the freedom to move about the campus, “network” with students and staff, and either head off an incident before it happens or at least be there on scene to immediately respond.”

The New York State Sheriffs’ Association, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation, formed in 1934, for the purpose of assisting sheriffs in the efficient and effective delivery of services to the public. It is comprised of all the elected and appointed sheriffs of New York State.

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