UTICA -- Utica City elementary schools will see new faces walking the halls next month.
Oneida County officials signed an agreement with the Utica City School District to place special patrol officers in all elementary schools.
"Statistically ... school shootings are typically over in less than 4 minutes," Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol said. "Having boots on the ground, right there, you can divert a lot of things from happening."
The Oneida County Sheriff's office is hiring 20 special patrol officers to place in Utica’s elementary schools.
"We want people to know that the school district is concerned, not only with the safety of our students, but our staff and those people working these buildings," Utica School Board President Louis LaPolla said. "That proactive approach is extremely important because visibility of a policeman or someone in law enforcement is a deterrent of crime."
Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, along with Sheriff Maciol, and Utica City School District Superintendent Bruce Karam signed a three year contract to work together to ensure school safety. Picente says the decision to place officers in schools comes after what he feels is a lack of response by state and federal government to take action in school shootings.
"The amount of children that are coming into the schools each and every day and stick around for activities, and the different situations of where they're placed in neighborhoods, make it important that it be as secure as possible and have a professional at the door," Picente said.
The special patrol officer position is part-time and will pay each officer roughly $19,000 a year. The county will split the cost with the school district. Picente says he's pushing to receive state aid to help with funding.
"We wanted to get it kicked off and started and be the first point," Picente said. "And now it's time for the state to step up for these districts and for these communities and take away that share that it's costing."
The officers will begin work in January, when students return to school after Christmas break.
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