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Plattsburgh school officials shocked by city cuts to resource officers

Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 1:39 PM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - As schools in northern New York ramp up for the upcoming year, there will be one thing missing from the halls of the Plattsburgh City School District -- school resource officers. School officials say they were shocked by the city council’s recent unanimous decision to not renew the two SRO contracts.

“I’ve been against this for two years now,” said Plattsburgh City Councilor Patrick McFarlin, who was among all six council members to discontinue the SRO contract at the August 27th meeting.

“It’s just bringing the legal apparatus into school,” McFarlin said. “Every study I read on SROs show the culture changes.” He says while those are national studies, he has heard about problems locally but didn’t want to elaborate.

“We don’t agree with this decision at all,” said Plattsburgh City School District Asst. Superintendent David Baroody. He says the district is perplexed over the ruling, especially since they pay the $60,000 annual bill for the two SROs that patrol all five schools every day. “To be clear, the city of Plattsburgh contributes zero dollars for school resource officers. They are considered city employees supervised by Police Chief Levi RItter.”

Chief Ritter says the SROs are not in full uniform when in school -- just a polo and khakis -- but that they are armed with a gun. He says they work as peace officers, so they do not make arrests and are only there to help the district with security. “An extra layer of safety, that’s where the origin comes,” he said.

Baroody says in the last two years they have done so much more than just protect the school. “Our SROs mentor students, they foster school-police partnerships -- which is vital in today’s society,” he said.

Plattsburgh Councilor Mike Kelly questions why the city is even involved and why the district doesn’t work directly with the police department.

Chief Ritter says it’s because all police contracts need to be approved by city councilors, including the SROs.

Councilor McFarlin said the SROs are insured by the city, so that left some councilors weary about the city’s liability.

District officials say they are looking at their options but hope the community will see the benefits of the SROs and that the council will reverse course.

There were SROs from the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department in seven school districts in the county, but pandemic budget cuts have meant all but one have canceled the contracts.

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