As of last week, Clarkstown police officers on patrol began stopping and taking a walking tour of one school building within their route each day. The new directive comes from the department after discussions with public and private school representatives and town officials.
Clarkstown Police Chief Michael Sullivan said Monday all 37 public and private schools within the town would be visited on a random basis by the officers assigned to those areas. Following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, police increased their presence at local schools. Chief Sullivan said the new effort goes one step further then having officers drive around schools and through their parking lots and is a “commonsense” approach to increasing police presence in the schools.
The initiative includes the Clarkstown and Nanuet school districts and private schools.
“The purpose of this program to find a way that we could do this economically and get it done today, not six months down he road or a year down the road,” he explained. “We want to make the schools safe today.”
Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack said town officials were open to new school safety measures and the initiative does not require additional funds.
“There’s no additional cost at this time,” he said. “We’re just pleased the schools have embraced this.”
Gromack anticipates future announcements about new training, techniques and initiatives to continue to improve school safety. Chief Sullivan said the department would be meeting with daycare operators also.
He said the new police presence in the schools would become a permanent part of the department’s policies and procedures going forward. He said the officers will be another set of eyes and ears in the schools, meet with principals, teachers and custodial staff and will support the work of the School Resource Officers assigned to the four high schools and Felix Festa Middle School.
The announcement made at a press conference on the one-month anniversary of the tragedy in that was also attended by Clarkstown School District Superintendent Dr. J. Thomas Morton, Albertus Magnus High School Principal Joe Troy, David Kirschtel, CEO of the Rockland JCC, who represented the Rockland Jewish Academy, and Clarkstown Councilmembers Shirley Lasker, Frank Borelli and George Hoehmann.
The administrators praised the initiative.
“They’ve already shown their presence in our school,” said Troy. “Two or three officers have already walked through our school since we met.”
Dr. Morton said, “There is full support of this concept.”
Troy said he appreciated the increased presence. On September 26, the Clarkstown Police held a lockdown drill at Albertus Magnus High School with a scenario involving an armed intruder and teachers taking the roles of students. Troy, who was “shot” by the intruder, said the drill had an impact.
“It was a very, very effective drill,” he commented. “It scared me significantly.”
Orangetown Police will be implementing a similar program that increases the police presence in the schools.