SOMERSET COUNTY: Freeholders to fund second armed officer at Vo-Tech High School

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County freeholders announced their intention to make funds available for a second armed school resource officer at the Somerset County Vocational & Technical High School in Bridgewater Township.

Somerset County Freeholder Director Patrick Scaglione and Freeholder Mark Caliguire announced the move, citing the Parkland, Fla. shooting on Feb. 14, as well as other incidents throughout the country.

“The shooting at Parkland and the senseless loss of life were appalling and demand action by elected officials at all levels of government,” Scaglione said. “The presence of well-trained law enforcement officials at our Vo-Tech school is well worth the investment to keep our students and faculty safe.”

The move comes after Scaglione and Caliguire met with Vo-Tech Superintendent Dr. Chrys Harttraft to review current security protocols at the school designed to protect students and faculty. It was then that the superintendent requested funding for the additional SRO.

The school currently has one officer in place to cover the school during the day and evening hours when students are on campus.

“Dr. Harttraft takes security very seriously and is grateful for the additional funding we are providing,” Scaglione said.

The freeholders also urged every school district in Somerset County to follow their lead and enhance school security in their communities.

“I understand that budgets are tight but when it comes to making our schools safer, ‘we don’t have the money’ is not an acceptable excuse,” Caliguire said. “Every school district in the county should allocate the resources to fund at least one armed SRO who can provide a line of defense against a school shooter.”

The push for additional SROs in the county’s schools received support from some of the area’s top law enforcement officials. Somerset County Sheriff Frank J. Provenzano agreed with the freeholders’ decision to fund a second SRO at the Vo-Tech High School, stating that the recent shootings “clearly and unfortunately demonstrates why it is necessary for all schools in Somerset County to have school resource officers protecting our children.”

Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson also supported the freeholders’ position. “While I have confidence in the current security measures in place throughout the various school districts in this county, there is always room for improvement and the introduction of SROs is something I strongly advocate,” he said.

Caliguire said he hoped that an increased security effort will be a major focus for school districts moving forward.

“This issue transcends partisanship and politics,” he said. “This is common sense and we intend to actively encourage our partners at the local level to join us.”