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.