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Norwalk looks to increase police presence at schools in wake of Texas tragedy

(File photo)

NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk Police plan to increase their presence at the city’s public schools following a mass shooting Tuesday at a Texas elementary school.

At least 19 children and two teachers are dead after a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, news reports say. The 18-year-old gunman, who was armed with an assault rifle, was killed by local police on the scene. He is said to have texted folks his plans to shoot his grandmother and “an elementary school” half an hour before the tragedy occurred.

A vigil is planned for 6 p.m. Wednesday on the Norwalk Town Green, hosted by Mayor Harry Rilling and State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25).

Parents plan to walk to City Hall after the planned half hour vigil.

“Following the vigil tonight we will walk to city hall to demand a change to protect our schools everyday not just after a tragedy. We need the ability to stop these monsters before they get in the door,” a parent posted on the Facebook page Norwalk Parents for Education.

Other posts call for more school resource officers (SROs). Some parents claim that the governing politicians would rather fund “other stuff” than people, that the SROs are not budgeted.

The Norwalk Police Department cut the SRO district-wide staffing from eight to three in September due to staffing shortages. Chief Thomas Kulhawik said at the time that Kulhawik said everyone is committed to the school resource program, the funding was in place, but there weren’t enough police officers to go around.

The department is authorized for 181 officers and had 165 sworn officers at the end of April, Norwalk Police Deputy Chief James Walsh said Monday. That’s five more than Walsh had reported at the end of March.

New hires need at least a year of training before being available for independent patrol duty. Although the department has hired 19 officers this year, it “has not had any impact yet,” Deputy Norwalk Police Chief Susan Zecca said Monday.

Lt. David O’Connor, police union President, has described the shortage as feeding upon itself, as younger officers get ordered in to cover shifts and then feel inspired to look for less taxing means of making a living. Older officers with desk jobs decide to retire rather than go back on the street. Resignations are high.

Zecca said Monday that the department has hired three out of state officers, who are certified and able to go on patrol right away. Another four “lateral” officers have been hired but haven’t started work yet.

With the call for more SROs after the Texas massacre of children, Kulhawik said Wednesday that, “We will have police presence at all schools.” He declined to give a number.

“I spoke with the Chief early this morning,” Mayor Harry Rilling wrote. “I asked him to develop a plan to have an officer at each school in the city for the remainder of the school year.  This is quite challenging however, I’m confident it can be accomplished.  As we are able to bring staffing levels back to normal, we will be able to offer even greater levels of security.”

As for building security, the capital budget passed in April includes $600,000 for school safety improvements, based on recommendations from the Safety and Security Task Force created in December.

NPS is considering security cameras, Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Lunda Asmani said in April. He characterized the district’s infrastructure as old and said some schools, like West Rocks Middle School, have classroom doors that open to the outside. The district planned to put alarms on the doors and the locks will be replaced to ensure uniformity throughout the district.

Comments

12 responses to “Norwalk looks to increase police presence at schools in wake of Texas tragedy”

  1. John O’Neill

    Considering Travis Simms put a bill forward l year ago pushing a bill approving funds to study pulling these same police out of the school it would be interesting to get his take on this story..

  2. JustaTaxpayer

    Here’s an idea, instead of police sitting in their cars watching a ditch being dug, why don’t we repurpose and do away with the stupid law/decision to need a cop at the site of public works.

  3. Tysen Canevari

    Good move by the mayor. We have to do something to deter the craziness. These innocent people dying at the hands of assault rifles is just insane. Too many guns in the hands of the wrong people

  4. Taxpayer

    I couldn’t believe the NRA was finally implementing gun control by prohibiting guns at their annual meeting this Friday. It seemed hypocritical at first but I finally understand, it’s not a gun problem but a mental health problem. They’ll have 55,000 paranoid participants and 1 deranged former president. Of course it’s not safe to allow guns at their own convention, but surely they’ll advocate for the right to bear arms and assault rifles everywhere else.

  5. DrewT

    Lots of chatter and talk from the Mayor but does he really have a plan when the members of his party Like Bod Duff, Jim Himes, Travis Simms, and the entire Defund the Police movement all want Officers and SRO’S to stay out of the schools! Notice he never said ANYTHING about SRO’S except on News12 that we never got rid of the program. But he forgot to mention we ONLY have 3 officers for 19 Schools!!!!!! We have a HUGE staffing shortage thanks to Bob & Company Anti Police Bill!!! Makes you wonder why very few people are singing up to be officers doesn’t it. The Rhetoric from Bob and his Democratic friends to DEFUND the police is a lot louder than what is truly needed to protect our schools unfortunately. Like they said at the Vigil and notice once again they fail to invite the RTC or any other Republican Leaders but our candidates were there. If you’re going to talk the talk then walk it! We ned a real plan with real solutions. This so called “Safety” Committee Meeting we still have no idea what was discussed, who was on it, and where were the parental non-attached to the City or Schools in an official capacity heard and welcomed? So as the Mayor said its time for action, well support your own officers FIRST, get rid of the Anti Police Bill and FUND the Department! That’s just for starters. Second, LET’S STOP being SOFT on crime and have REAL consequences for criminals and unfortunately children that cause trouble in schools. Let’s actually STAND UP & SUPPORT our teachers!!!!!! Stop with the WOKE and BS Liberal Polices that don’t work! Let’s get tough send a message and bring back our schools where everyone is safe and if you misbehave, cause damage or violence then those students will be removed. It’s time for ACTION!

  6. DrewT

    And for clarification it was Senator Chris Murphy that introduced a bill to REMOVE the SRO’S from our schools!

  7. Piberman

    Israel has responded successfully to attacks on its schools by terrorists by several straightforward measures: securing the perimeter with only 1 entrance manned by a guard, metal detectors, bullet proof remote controlled doors, alarm buttons throughout the school, several ex-military armed teachers and local police committed to arriving within 10 minutes.

    No need for police sit in cars for hours on end.

  8. Jen Stevens

    SAY NO TO GUNS and ARs. We need to pull the guns. We don’t need more cops in the schools, we need gun control and abolish the gun lobby.
    Jen

  9. Seriously?

    A few thoughts before I call it a night:

    Fairfield County surely shouldn’t need the devastating Texas tragedy to awaken us to the threat to any school. A very short drive from Norwalk is Sandy Hook (Newtown), which suffered a horror that leaves families and a community forever changed and forever grieving. There is nothing that we can do to guarantee the safety of any school’s children and staff, but if we have our priorities in order, we can make all reasonable preparations to prevent anything like that from happening ever again.

    No one should equate a Norwalk police officer with a Norwalk SRO, who is a police officer who has been specially trained to work within a school community. I am not minimizing the value of NPD officers; in fact, I’m sure that there are many who have remarkable relationships with the schools. I just want to be clear that SROs have additional training that is very helpful.

    So the schools have gone largely uncovered for the current school year because of a staffing problem within the police department. How is it that it has suddenly been resolved? Did it take this devastating tragedy to make Norwalk politicians change their priorities? Is this political theater, an effort to make people think that the politicians are attentive to school security? Until now, they didn’t seem concerned about having 3 SROs provide trying to provide service to 19 buildings.

    Luna Asmandi ought to visit more schools because there are many (most?) elementary schools that have classrooms with exterior doors. While I understand the security concern, they aren’t entirely bad because these offer easier escape routes in the event of fire or other emergencies. Also, he said that the district is considering security cameras? There have been security cameras in some schools for at least 15 years. In other schools, for at least 10 years, and there have been updates to some of the older camera technology since then. Let’s give credit to the work of the people who used to work here before the NYC bulldozer pushed so many of them out.

    Finally, let’s be clear. There have been school safety committees in all of the schools for years, and while I can’t speak for all of them, I know that they have done excellent work assessing safety concerns and implementing safety plans.

  10. CT-Patriot

    We have one of the strictest gun policy as well as NY, Chicago, California. We HAVE background checks, red flag laws.

    Tell me, what other “law” will “fix” the problem?

    Work on the ones passed, incarcerate criminals and don’t let them out with little to no bail. Just enforce the laws or you may as well remove them from state.

    However, firearms are misused by those who do not agree with laws or follow laws. Commonly known as criminals. Law abiding gun owners are NOT the problem!

    About 30+ years ago, we had a rifle team at our school in CT, as well as others did. Some would bring their rifle to school too.

    So, what happened from that time?

    The deteriorating family and society. Lack of respect for family figures, fathers mothers, adults in general. Respect and trust in law enforcement, judges, DA’s and rule of law.

    Statistics show more violent crimes are committed by knifes followed by pistols and in no where did it fall on semi-automatic rifles which some like to refer to as “assault rifles” which there is no such description.

    Let’s go back in time…In the 60’s in Texas a shooter killed 17 people, wounded an additional 30. The weapon used? No, not an “assault rifle” but a deer rifle which is a bolt action rifle. Meaning one bullet, shoot, reload.

    Point being, you can do just as much or more harm with that rifle than most semi-auto’s.

    For years we always had firearms. All types, sizes, designs. We are granted that right in the Constitution. But, just as the 2nd Amendment is under attack, so is the 1st Amendment! Remember the ridiculous “ministry of disinformation”?

    Let’s stop focusing on firearms and focus on people who need help, some obvious some not so obvious.

    But here’s another thing….let’s get the FBI to stop classifying parents who attend a BOE meeting and may object to the direction the BOE is taking teaching curriculum as “domestic terrorists” and direct them back to finding those posing a hazard to communities.

    The federal government has “spied” on over 3.3 Million citizens without a warrant. Think of that power to monitor 3.3 citizens!

    It’s time now to concentrate on building strong family bonds. Back to respecting women, elders, police, clergy etc.

    Too many children are growing up in broken families abusive families or just ignored and not listened to.

    If you have a child or more than one, listen, engage, praise when appropriate and strong discipline when needed.

    Our society is broken and we must learn to fix it before it’s too late. Or this Republic will fall.

  11. CT-Patriot

    With respect to this tragic event, one has to ponder how an 18 year old has the funds to purchase not one, but two Daniel Defence semi-automatic rifles etch costing $2000. New optics to mount on one of the rifles $600.00 the ammunition approx $450/500 and a new Ford F250?

    No one has yet to discover exactly how these items were purchased and who gave him the funds for the items.

    The shooter comes from a broken family, mother is a drug addict, father unknown, living with a grandparent.

    Something just does not make sense.

  12. Piberman

    Is that the best Norwalk can do ? Posts a Police Cruiser ? No discussion on how to fortify our schools by restricting to just one entry, bulletproof armored classroom doors, button alarms everywhere, removing door closing and a few well trained armed teachers ?

    Or just another opportunity for politicians to express their “feelings”. With a former well respected Police Chief as Mayor and a well respected PD why isn’t Norwalk becoming a model for fortifying our schools ? BOE involved or focused on new schools ?

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