After the Oneida County Board of Legislators last month approved $500,000 to staff local schools with special patrol officers, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente announced Monday that five new districts have taken them up on the offer.
Under the new initiative, the county pays for half of the salary for the part-time special patrol officers and the school district pays the other half. They officers are staffed through the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office, and it costs roughly $19,000 to fund each part-time SPO, according to Picente.
There are 81 school buildings in Oneida County, and Picente says there are currently 28 SPOs dispersed throughout six school districts in the county. They include:
- Whitesboro Central School District: 14
- Camden Central School District: 4
- Westmoreland Central School District: 4
- New York Mills Union Free School District: 2
- Waterville Central School District: 2
- Sauquoit Valley Central School District: 2
“We’ve have had many discussions at the superintendents level about ways we can keep our schools safe and certainly one of the ways that I have discussed is the SPO program,” said Brian Bellair, superintendent of the Whitesboro Central School District.
“Six different school district with SPOs, special patrol officers. We also have soft SROs in several other districts,” said Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol. “Again, our goal here, as the county executive said, is to get law enforcement in every single school building in Oneida County.”
In addition to half of the salary, the county is also covering the $4,000 start-up cost for hiring a SPO that includes officer uniforms and equipment.
“When I first announced that I wanted to make this funding available in April, I did so because I wanted action,” Picente said in a news release. “As I watched the seemingly never-ending news stream of school shootings and violence inflicting pain, loss and fear on our nation’s children, parents and educators, I knew we had to act where others were not. With these highly-trained and armed retired law enforcement members securing our schools and protecting our community’s most precious resource, our classrooms can hopefully refocus on the important task of shaping and molding young minds.”
The county is still looking for help from the state of federal government for this initiative.