RED BANK – The Red Bank Borough Council and the Red Bank Borough Public Schools Board of Education have entered into a shared services agreement through which Class III school resource officers will provide security at the borough’s schools.
During a meeting on Sept. 14, council members authorized the execution of the agreement for the school resource officers for the 2022-23 school year. The officers will be assigned from the Red Bank Police Department.
The upcoming school year will mark the first time school resource officers will provide security at Red Bank’s schools.
Police Chief Darren McConnell said a school resource officer (SRO) will be assigned to the Red Bank Primary School and to the Red Bank Middle School. The SRO program was announced by McConnell at a community forum in June.
McConnell said planning for the forum regarding the SROs began earlier in the year, but noted that a number of tragedies occurred while the public meeting was being planned, including the May 24 incident in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 students and two teachers were shot and killed by a man who entered a classroom in an elementary school.
Plans for an SRO program at Red Bank’s schools date back prior to the coronavirus pandemic, but the police chief, who is also serving as the borough’s interim business administrator, said those plans were delayed by the pandemic.
According to McConnell, the school resource officers are retired law enforcement personnel who attend special training sessions to become certified as an SRO. The officers are armed while they are on duty in schools.
“Their primary goal when they are assigned to the schools is the safety of the school, the safety of the students and the safety of the staff,” McConnell said. “They are not there to be disciplinarians of the school.
“They are there to respond to something that is a critical incident immediately without having to wait for a police response. Even one, two or three minutes can make a huge difference in a situation like that,” he said.
The police chief said the secondary purpose of the SROs is to build a rapport and trust with the students in a school.
“A threat may become known before it is actually carried out if students and parents have direct access to a police officer they know. The hope is they will be more likely to approach that officer, talk to them and avoid a bad situation,” he said.
The final purpose of the SROs, according to McConnell, is to assist students if they have a crisis outside of the school.
“The goal is to make (the SRO program) very positive and something we hopefully don’t need, but still a safeguard for our schools,” he said.
Red Bank Regional High School, which is operated by the Red Bank Regional High School District, is in Little Silver. An SRO is provided at the high school by the Little Silver Police Department, according to the police department’s website.