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Feb 28, 2018 11:30 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Village Police Put Forward Plan To Station Armed Officer In Schools

Westhampton Beach Police Chief Trevor Gonce speaks about the School Resource Officer program to the village trustees. KATE RIGA
Feb 28, 2018 12:11 PM

An armed Village Police officer could soon be stationed inside the Westhampton Beach middle and high schools.

A week after a former student went on a shooting spree inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people—including 14 students—Westhampton Beach Village Police Officer Andrew Kirwin asked Village Board members last week to allocate the necessary funding so that an additional officer could be hired, trained and assigned to patrol the district’s middle and high schools.

Westhampton Beach Village Police Chief Trevor Gonce, who shared in a subsequent interview that for years he has been working on a plan that would allow him to hire and place a School Resource Officer, or SRO, in the school district, said he would need an additional $55,000, plus benefits, to hire an officer to fill that position.

“I’ve been working on this for a long time, not just because of Parkland,” Chief Gonce said. “I already had this on the schedule when this tragedy happened.”

He also noted that like Parkland, Westhampton Beach is an affluent neighborhood with many other similarities. “This is the last thing I want to happen on my watch,” Chief Gonce said.

Still, he noted that even if the village allocates the necessary funding, the Westhampton Beach Board of Education would have the final say about whether or not an SRO is assigned to the two schools.

Board of Education President Suzanne Mensch did not return multiple requests for comment this week.

In an email, Superintendent of Schools Michael Radday said he supports the idea of Village Police adding a SRO to his district’s middle and high schools.

“We are supportive of the plan to add a school resource officer to our campus, and we will continue to investigate the logistics of the SRO program,” he wrote. “I am not worried about bringing an armed police officer into our schools—to the contrary, I have a great deal of confidence in our police.

“I am hopeful that students, parents, and the community will see a school resource officer as an asset to our district and a positive step toward maintaining a safe environment on our campus,” he continued.

Board of Education members intend to meet with the Village Board over the next few weeks to hammer out the details of the proposed program.

One of the details topping that list will be who will pay for the additional officer. In some instances, SROs are funded by local law enforcement while, in other areas, they are covered by the respective school district. There are also instances where the cost is split between a police department and a school district.

“It’s my position that I’d love to see the village fund this,” Chief Gonce said in an interview on Monday.

Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore said she and her fellow board members are still reviewing the chief’s request, adding that they still haven’t determined if the requested officer would have to be a full-time employee.

“It’s a little too soon to answer that because we don’t know yet the extent of the hours the SRO would be at the school,” Ms. Moore wrote in an email on Monday. She added that she would know more next week after communicating with school administrators.

Chief Gonce said that the SRO will be armed “no differently than a police officer on the street.”

He continued: “He or she would have a full duty belt with a weapon and a taser.”

Though the individual would be armed like a normal police officer, the SRO would also be required to wear many hats, according to Officer Kirwin. In addition to being trained to respond to an active shooter situation, the officer would be charged with building a rapport with the students he or she would be protecting, and also asked to assist with educating students about the dangers of gangs and opioids, for example.

“The four ways that an SRO can make the learning environment safe and conducive to learning are prevention, intervention, planning and emergency response,” Officer Kirwin told the Village Board on Wednesday, February 21.

However, he also stressed that the SRO would not be asked to implement school policies or to hand out punishments. “He or she does not enforce educational rules,” he said. “He or she can’t suspend students—that is school district’s job.”

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How many SRO's will be needed to cover all the hours, days, activities, events etc? 1 to 8, days off, vacations holidays
Many questions need to be addressed. Needed? Yes. Metal detecters, drug checks, mental health. We can't bury our heads in the sand any longer...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Feb 28, 18 6:39 PM
Why wouldn't they 'put forward a plan' that helps ensure their continued existence? Since when is self-preservation laudable? Yeah, yeah, their intentions are noble. On the other hand, this will be a great way for kids to learn what it's like to live in a police state.
By dave21 (16), westhampton on Feb 28, 18 7:42 PM
3 members liked this comment
Coming from a country where it was normal to see fully armed soldiers in full camouflage on every street corner...it could always be worse!
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 1, 18 8:39 AM
There are 1700 residents in WHB. There are 14 officers. You need one more? You can police that town with a few hall monitors and a go pro
By Hambone (514), New York on Feb 28, 18 8:18 PM
1 member liked this comment
Yeah but the chief wears 3 stars like he is General Patton!!! A little rinky dink department like that could have a sergeant in charge....What a Joke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
By mtkfishman (76), montauk on Mar 3, 18 12:24 PM
Worthless. Giant waste of time and money. America is broken and putting armed guards in schools is only going to scare the crap out of our kids. The problem we have, which is unique to the US, is our society's saturation in firearms. When you read the second amendment (you know the one we can change, since it WAS a change) don't forget the first part of the sentence.How many of these mass shooters were members of a well-regulated militia? I'll give you a hint. The answer is zero.
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Mar 1, 18 8:12 AM
1 member liked this comment
Giant waste of money? You are talking about our children's lives. I spoke to my child who attends a WHB school and asked him how he felt about an armed guard being placed in the school and his reply was "It would make me feel much safer." You know what scares the crap out of our kids? Watching deranged killers with AR-15's bum rushing their way into schools and killing children once they get inside. We should be thanking our law enforcement for doing everything they can to keep our children safe. ...more
By BAT514 (1), Westhampton Beach on Mar 1, 18 9:10 AM
You already have 14 cops on the payroll policing 1700 people...half of those people are AARP members! Yo need another officer? WHB is one of the few towns I've ever been in that doesn't publish police stats (arrests, stops, wellness checks). Why? Because it is embarrassing from September through May..there is no serious crime.
By Hambone (514), New York on Mar 1, 18 6:05 PM
Law enforcement responds to emergencies. We need to prevent the emergencies by passing common-sense gun laws and removing assault rifles from civilian's hands. So yes, paying one security guard to patrol a multi-building school is a waste of time and money. How many times have SROs actually stopped a mass shooting? I'll be waiting for any evidence that SROs are the solution to this problem.
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Mar 1, 18 6:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
Law enforcement prevents and manages emergencies. With millions of guns already in circulation and millions of those so called "assault rifles" included, I would welcome your thoughts or plan for the removal.

By Po Boy (5299), Water Mill on Mar 1, 18 7:34 PM
I think the chief is great and I love that he is proactive and has even has a plan on the shelf to protect kids at school. However, I think the village is already spending way too much on policing - in fact,the dept is the biggest line item in the village budget (until the sewer system construction starts).

I have worked with many police depts implementing technology to reduce costs while Improving public safety. One takeaway that can be applied - Many departments have found that they ...more
By winkelby (38), westhampton on Mar 1, 18 8:34 AM
1 member liked this comment
NO! NO! NO! Say NO to SRO!!! What scam and a sham. Look what the SRO did in Parkland!!!! Armed and hid !!! When no shooters show up the cops will pipeline your kids to prison for not saying good morning to them to justify their existence; job security << NO PUN INTENDED! Keep them as far away from schools and your children as you can. PLEASE.
By deepchanel (89), Southampton on Mar 1, 18 9:10 AM
The SRO at Parkland claims he stayed outside because there were indications the shooter was outside, including a GSW victim at the football field.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 1, 18 9:17 AM
1 member liked this comment
Yes I heard that excuse. Law enforcement officers are very capable at spinning words to their favor when needed whether verbally or in writing. Meanwhile hundreds were running OUT OF THE SCHOOL.

“Two coaches went in and were shielding kids and throwing themselves in front of bullets and he did nothing.”

He "hid behind a concrete column near the stairs"
"taking up a position" outside of the west side of building 12 during the massacre, "and he never went in."

Not ...more
By deepchanel (89), Southampton on Mar 1, 18 10:12 AM
I fail to see how a metal detector stops a school shooting., so let's play this out:

A shooter enters a school with a semiautomatic rifle in hand. They pass through the metal detector. It goes off. What happens next?
Mar 1, 18 10:24 AM appended by Fore1gnBornHBgrown
In the absence of replies, I'll answer my own question: he starts shooting.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 1, 18 10:24 AM
1 member liked this comment
the principal who is 30 feet away pulls the fire alarm or you do a direct alarm to the police station. Duh...

By Hambone (514), New York on Mar 1, 18 6:07 PM
So the suggestion is not actually metal detectors, it's an emergency button.

Metal detectors are expensive and have zero deterrence factor on mass shooters.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 1, 18 10:10 PM
I am unaware if any of the recent or past shootings could have been prevented by the presence of either metal detectors or armed police officers. Financially speaking, metal detectors are a fine security deterrent to acquire. Arm and train the already hired security guards.
I did read about a janitor hero that foiled what could have been just one fatality. Can't play right place right time. Get 'em at the entrance.
By deepchanel (89), Southampton on Mar 2, 18 5:39 PM
The Police station is literally a block away from the school and you can drive across any point in Westhampton in five minutes, they really hire another officer to patrol the area with 14 officers already?
By lirider (288), Hampton Bays on Mar 1, 18 9:53 AM
1 member liked this comment
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Mar 1, 18 10:37 AM
How many of you that are commenting actually have a child or children that attend school in WHB? I have two and as a parent I see the addition of a SRO as a very positive thing.
By cmac (184), East Quogue on Mar 1, 18 4:13 PM
2 members liked this comment
How much did you care before you had a child in the school, how much will you care afterwards.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Mar 2, 18 9:28 AM
1 member liked this comment
Exactly this ^^^^^^^^
By 2329702 (67), East Quogue on Mar 8, 18 2:27 PM
We currently have a child attending WHB schools. Another already graduated. If an armed officer is deemed necessary, let everyone pay for that individual via school/Town taxes. That burden should not fall solely on WHB Village taxpayers.
By st (129), westhampton beach on Mar 1, 18 5:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
I agree with Chief Gonce and a contingency plan should to be in place and applaud him for thinking strateglically . Any officer or SRO at the school should be the responsibility of the District and not solely the responsibility of the Village of WHB. WHB students probably make up less then 10 to 20% of the population of the School District. Any incident could cause a catastrophic lawsuit upon this tiny Village.
By Bobt (48), WHB on Mar 1, 18 8:00 PM
2 members liked this comment
Whether we take WHB cop and give them the job or hire a new officer is one conversation. In reality, if there are 17 cops in all the village, during the school day there are a large number of residents in the high school, one or two can be spared and be posted there. To the commenter that thinks a single officers presence makes for a police state, that's ridiculous. Drive across in 5 minutes? Many could be dead by the time they arrive (these incidents start and end in minutes). For the other ...more
By lamm (304), Southampton on Mar 1, 18 10:08 PM
3 members liked this comment
No. Just no.
By East End 2 (151), Southampton on Mar 2, 18 6:09 AM
Thank you WHB for caring about our kids! What a stand up response to offer guards to protect my greatest treasures! I expect the costs to be put in the budgets for next year split between the tax base of the school and I am happy to pay my small share to make this safety measure happen. Glad many of you commentators are just stickin your nose in WHB business and dont live here.
By Say What (14), southampton on Mar 2, 18 6:50 AM
2 members liked this comment
I, too, commend Chief Gonce for being proactive and this is a good conversation we're all having. But, again, LET EVERYONE PAY (caps for emphasis, not yelling).

I learned yesterday from a WHB Village trustee that the elementary school is not in WHB. That’s why the “WHB” SRO would only be based at the middle and high schools. The Sandy Hook tragedy was at an elementary school, for example. This reason alone should be why the school taxes/Town taxes should pay for an ...more
By st (129), westhampton beach on Mar 2, 18 8:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
I live in EQ and I realistically think the bill should be split between WHB and all its feeder districts. Maybe just for now to get up and running WH can foot the bill or maybe be reimbursed in the future. I dont care but lets make it happen. I have no problem with paying my share.
By Say What (14), southampton on Mar 2, 18 3:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you. That's good to hear. I think most people agree the cost should be fairly split. Personally, as a WHB taxpayer with a child in the school and one just graduated, I think that if the school board wants an armed officer they should start that process cleanly, themselves. No need for WHB taxpayers to hire and fund an initial officer. It may be difficult to "terminate" that individual later. Perhaps the WHB police force can consult for the initial hiring. Again, if warranted and deemed necessary.
By st (129), westhampton beach on Mar 2, 18 6:13 PM
If you live in EQ, you already know that the tuition payment you pay to WHB will more than cover the cops, and will increase as the Seneca formula allows.
By lamm (304), Southampton on Mar 2, 18 11:06 PM
Why do people all of the sudden care about putting armed officers (and potentially teachers in schools)? Why now and not after our countless other school and mass shootings?
Adding SROs or Teachers with guns is an easy and shortsighted answer, it placates gun rights activists and parents but it is far from a solution. Adding guns to schools is a simplistic answer for all of us as we are unwilling to put real thought in to our culture and future.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Mar 2, 18 9:28 AM
Why is this suddenly happening? Probably because of the recent school shooting.

How this will help prevent the tragedies that happened in Orlando and Vegas remains to be seen.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 2, 18 9:42 AM
What is your solution?
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Mar 2, 18 4:01 PM
Is that a question for me or alphabet souo?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 2, 18 4:17 PM
Haha, alphabet soup is now how I will reply to him;). Post directed at alphabet.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Mar 2, 18 4:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
I can't take credit for that, someone else here came up with it, I just thought it was an apt description.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 2, 18 4:28 PM
How will this help prevent tragedies that already happened? Of course that's impossible. Let's prevent it from happening to our kids.
By lamm (304), Southampton on Mar 2, 18 11:07 PM
Are you purposely being obtuse?

While stopping school shootings is all well and good, that's not the only place that mass shootings happen. This move, while positive in the case of school shootings, does nothing for bar ahootings, concert shootings, college campus shootings, etc.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 3, 18 5:30 AM
Abolish the 2nd amendment entirely - it's an archaic joke. Give the fools who think having a gun is "protection," unlimited booze, some Fox News and lock them in a gym for 72 hours. I project we'll see Darwinism at it's finest.
By hojo (10), Speonk on Mar 5, 18 4:30 PM
I don't need to put my finger to the wind to know that's not the direction it's blowing.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 5, 18 4:37 PM
Something needs to be pointed out. Gonce's "solution" was an SRO. This seriously calls into my mind competency. This is by far the most narrow minded approach. A cop thinks the solution is more cops...that is a foot patrol officer's response....not a Chief. WHB having a police force is akin to a bazooka blasting an ant.
By Hambone (514), New York on Mar 5, 18 9:32 PM
Hambone, if I didn't know better I would think that you have a personnel vendetta against Chief Gonce they way you continue to bash him. Please stop thinking that a school shooting cannot and will not happen in little WHB. That's where most happen. Sandy Hook and Parkland are little quite quaint towns just like ours. And so what if he wears 3 stars on his collar. And honestly I'm glad the CHIEF is thinking like a foot patrol officer. Means he is still grounded on the goings on of the people, ...more
By yanks27titles (15), eastport on Mar 6, 18 3:54 PM
1 member liked this comment
... they need to assess the situation in each building. Safety/law enforcement officials (consultants) in conjunction with school officials need to put an upgraded safety plan in place, fairly quickly.

If it means more of a police presence - so be it, as long as it is thoroughly vetted.

If the WHB police need to be utilized that should be absorbed as part of the village budget. If Southampton police are needed that should be absorbed by the town, not any school budgets.
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Mar 6, 18 5:03 PM