By WILLIAM CLARK
The shooting in Uvalde, Texas is making school districts nationwide reconsider security protocols. Local districts have been exploring ways to make students, staff and parents feel more comfortable in the face of increasing threats from gun violence.
The Ocean Township school district and police department have been utilizing Class III New Jersey Special Law Enforcement Officers since 2018 to provide security and resources to township schools.
Police Chief Michael Sorrentino said in a recent interview that the department is hoping to hire a fifth Class III officer this summer.
“Since Texas, for the remainder of the school year, we supplemented vacancies for parents, students, teachers and their peace of mind,” Sorrentino said.
The new hire this summer will make sure that each of the district’s school buildings have a Class III officer.
Ocean Class III officers, Sorrentino said, are retired township police officers who work on an hourly basis. The officers are armed and in full uniform. Each must complete the two week School Resource Officer(SRO) program. Sorrentino said that Class III officers are more cost effective than placing an SRO in each building as they are not full time police officers. The district and police department split the cost of the program.
These officers are so important, Sorrentino said, “especially in a budget conscious time.”
Each building also has a civilian security presence, Sorrentino said. But the schools “still get the experience of having a senior police officer doing security,” he said.
The Class III officers maintain a presence at the beginning of the school day and routinely walk around the campus ensuring points of entry are secure.
“They address an active threat,” Sorrentino said. “They are the first line of defense.”
In addition, the Class III officers participate in the monthly drills each school practices alongside township officers. They must maintain all current certifications and training.
“It’s almost like they never left,” Sorrentino said.
Other districts around the state are looking to implement something similar, Sorrentino said, but he is proud of the relationship the district and department have had over the past few years implementing the program.