Starting next week, there will be a police presence in all four of the public elementary schools in Saratoga Springs.
The Saratoga Springs Police Department and Saratoga Springs City School District announced a partnership Tuesday to increase security in the schools.
Each of the elementary schools in the city will provide workspace that police officers can use for clerical tasks that would otherwise require them to return to police headquarters in City Hall.
Police Chief Christopher Cole stressed that the officer in the school will not use the space to conduct interviews and will not bring witnesses, victims or suspects into any school. The police will be located in the custodian’s office in each of the four schools, officials said.
The partnership will not require additional manpower or cost, Cole said. Officers will be in the schools at various times during the day and night.
City school district officials say they like the program because it provides enhanced school safety in wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings late last year in Newtown, Conn. Cole said he likes the new partnership because it enhances the positive relationships between police officers and the school district’s staff, faculty, students and parents.
The program also gives his patrol officers a permanent location in their patrol areas where they will have office space for doing paperwork, Cole said.
School Superintendent Michael Piccirillo on Tuesday said the officers will start coming to the four elementary schools in the city (Caroline Street, Division Street, Geyser Road and Lake Avenue) starting Tuesday, even though students and faculty will be on spring break.
Piccirillo said he is in discussion with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department about providing a similar program at Maple Avenue Middle School and the Greenfield and Dorothy Nolan elementary schools, all of which are outside the city.
Since 2010, when the police department’s DARE program was suspended, officials have been looking for ways to reintegrate officers into the elementary schools in a way that is non-threatening and allows officers to form long-lasting bonds with the city’s young children. With the recent events and tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School still fresh, the time was appropriate to discuss several potential initiatives that could provide increased safety in the schools, police said.
“It’s a win, win situation,” Piccirillo said about the partnership.
The police department also will reach out to the city’s private schools in the near future to discuss a similar arrangement. Saratoga Springs High School already has a police officer on site in the role of a resource officer.
“I could not be happier about the reception and support we have received from Superintendent Piccirillo and his staff as we all take responsibility for finding viable and practical solutions relating to the safety of our schools,” Cole said.
City Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen said “access to the office space in schools can improve the efficiency of our patrols. It is a win-win situation for our community. Chief Cole and Assistant Chief Gregory Veitch deserve special recognition for taking the initiative on this.”
The city school district was placed on high alert in March 2012, when a man, later identified as Brent Dickinson of Saratoga Springs, posted threatening emails on the White House message board saying he planned harm children in the city school district. Dickinson, 33, who suffers from mental health issues, was charged with making terroristic threats and sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison. He never actually acted on the threats he made from public computers at the Saratoga Springs Public Library, the YMCA, and Skidmore College.