As we embark on the new school year, the safety of our children is a top priority.

 We need to have a county-wide approach to the protection of our children and the schools. This is another area where I have to ask, “Where is the Sheriff on this?” A recently released County-wide Task Force report revealed only that the incumbent Sheriff thinks the time is right to develop a tactical response to an Active Shooter situation. I have to wonder who or what has been keeping him from doing so for the past four years.

As it stands now, each school district in the County has to find its own answer to the problem of school shootings. They are not, however, equally equipped to do so. Smaller districts struggle to provide a measure of safety while larger districts enjoy the protection and peace of mind of having their own police forces in place at the schools. There is no training or certification currently available to help smaller districts know whether a School Safety Officer candidate is equipped to respond in an emergency. So they pay what they can afford and hope for the best.

But these are our children, and hoping for the best isn’t an adequate policy.

As Sheriff, I will work with our district and elected officials to make School Resource Officers (SRO) available to each and every school district in the county. I know that we have to figure out ways to pay for this program, but we can. NO ONE wants the name of one of our excellent school districts to become a shorthand for carnage, like Parkland or Columbine. As a parent, I know the fear of sending my children off to school in the morning and worrying somewhere in the back of my mind about whether they’ll come home.

Our goal is to have active, fully equipped, certified law enforcement officers, overseen and trained by the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office, in each of the school districts.

SROs will be assigned to those school districts that are not covered by a municipal police agency in the county first. SROs will be interviewed by both the Sheriff’s Office AND  each school district to make sure the fit is appropriate. SROs will work collaboratively with school administrators and staff to provide a safe, positive and productive learning environment for the students.

Training: SROs will have ongoing and regular training to make sure that they are prepared for the routine as well as the most dramatic crises that may take place within a school. The Onondaga County Sheriff Office will have a plan in place in each district to make each school safer, and the SRO will help devise the plan and make sure it is followed. This will include items like making sure there are locks on doors as needed, that all school personnel knows what to do in an emergency, and making sure that security protocols are followed. They will drill with all applicable first responders and work collaboratively with all law enforcement agencies.