In wake of Conn. shooting, chief wants to place armed officer inside elementary school


LATROBE, Pa. - Latrobe‘s police chief is promoting a plan to place one of his officers in Latrobe Elementary School, a reaction to the shootings of 20 students and six staff in a Connecticut elementary school in December.

A school resource officer would not only provide security at the Ligonier Street school but would serve in an educational role, Chief James Bumar said on Tuesday.

“They definitely would have to be armed. An unarmed security resource officer is the first victim, usually,” Bumar said.

Establishing the position is part of Bumar‘s strategic plan for school security, but he has not presented the proposal to school district or city officials. The district and the city would have to determine how to pay for the position, Bumar said.

Bumar told city council on Monday that he met with Greater Latrobe School District officials to review a strategic plan he has developed in the event a gunman invades the elementary school, the only public school in the city. His police officers and the department‘s dog toured the school to become familiar with the layout, Bumar said.

He discussed security procedures with district Superintendent Judith Swigart and other school officials and wants to have further meetings with the school board.

Latrobe Deputy Mayor Kenneth Baldonieri said he was not aware of any proposal for a school resource officer. School board President Susan Mains said the board had not discussed the issue because its first meeting since the Dec. 14 shootings in Newtown, Conn., was on Tuesday. The administration has updated its security procedures, Mains said.

The district has not approached the city about stationing a police officer in the elementary school, but the city is willing to work with the district on the matter, city manager Alex Graziani said.

If the school district has the money for such a program and wants a police officer in the school, “that is totally their call,” Graziani said.

Among school districts in Westmoreland County, Franklin Regional has an agreement with Murrysville to continue its school resource officer program this school year at a cost of almost $71,000.

Pennsylvania administers $5.8 million in federal funding for school safety programs, in competitive two-year grants of up to $250,000, according to Robert Merwine, director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency‘s Office of Criminal Justice Systems Improvement.

The commission has received a few inquiries about the program since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Merwine said. The deadline for applications for the current round of funding is Feb. 8, but the reserve of funds for the program is dwindling because the government slashed its allocation in 2010, Merwine said.

The school resource office program follows a national model that focuses on preventing delinquency, deterring crime and drug abuse and stopping violence, according to the Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

Bumar said he intends to have his officers undergo training in school security to be aware of new developments.

Before entering the school resource officer program, officers undergo 40 hours of special training to function as an officer in school settings, work as a problem solver and develop teaching skills, the state commission said.

The chief said he has no timeline for implementing his plan.

This article was written by Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE.