Baltimore County

Harford eyes putting more police in schools

After Havre de Grace's Council just agreed to add two more school resource officers to its patrol in light of the Newtown, Conn., shooting, the Harford County Council and Board of Education may be looking into doing the same.

Council President Billy Boniface said he talked with board member James Thornton about the issue Tuesday.

"It's my understanding the board is looking into it and several of the council members had approached me about discussing the issue," Boniface said Wednesday.

"I think the first thing we have to do is understand what the fiscal note is on it, as a starting point," Boniface said. "I think the school board is going to have the discussion first and we will have to see where it starts and where it ends up."

Boniface said he could be willing to support the concept of more school resource officers, commonly referred to as SROs.

"It sounds like a good idea but the devil's in the details," he said.

Leaders of the other municipalities, Aberdeen and Bel Air, said they have not heard any such plans.

Doug Miller, Aberdeen's city manager, said he would discuss the idea with Police Chief Henry Trabert but noted the city has had two SROs in its schools.

"We really haven't had any conversation about altering it or adding any to the elementary schools," Miller said about the program. "I think our SRO program is highly successful and our two SROs are two of our better officers."

"Quite honestly, we didn't get any requests from the schools," he also said.

Mayor Eddie Hopkins of Bel Air also said he is confident in the SRO program and has talked with Police Chief Leo Matrangola, who has also said he is confident in the level of protection at Bel Air High School, the county's largest school, especially.

"Our officers there, I don't want to say is full-time, but he also makes the effort to visit John Carroll, Harford Day, but he is primarily assigned to Bel Air High School," Hopkins said.

"There's no plans to add anything else to the school," Hopkins said.

Citing the recent shooting in Newtown, Conn., the Havre de Grace City Council on Monday narrowly approved a $40,000 budget amendment to add two more school resource officers to its daily patrol through March.

Mayor Wayne Dougherty said plans to add officers had been in the works for some time but the elementary school shooting brought the idea to the forefront.

The amendment redirects $40,000 from the city's capital program toward police overtime to accommodate the additional patrol in city schools. The money, according to the mayor, is expected to cover the cost of adding two additional officers to the SRO patrol during school hours for the remainder of January and February.

During that period, Dougherty said, he has that requested Police Chief Teresa Walter take a look at "enhancing school safety for the long-term, look at best practices being performed elsewhere in light of recent events and to provide recommendations for the remainder of this year and the upcoming budget."

There are four schools inside the Havre de Grace city limits, a high school, middle school and two elementary schools.

All together, Harford has 33 public elementary schools, three of which have classes conducted in two separate buildings on the same campus. There are nine public middle schools and 10 high schools, although the Patterson Mill high and middle schools south of Bel Air are in a single building. The county also has an alternative education school next to Aberdeen High School and a school for special needs students on the same campus as Harford Technical High School and Prospect Mill Elementary School east of Bel Air.

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