Benefits of school resource officers pitched

Niagara County Sheriff's Office representatives spoke to Wilson residents on Tuesday. From left, Deputies Michelle Ohar and Raymond Needle, Sheriff Michael Filicetti, Wilson Superintendent Timothy Carter, Lt. John Vosburgh and Capt. Tom Huff.

WILSON — NIagara County Sheriff Michael Filicetti as well as several other current and former student resource officers were on hand Tuesday as the Wilson Central School District held a public hearing to discuss taking on an SRO.

An SRO is essentially a police officer assigned to a school who has other responsibilities outside of security, like mentoring and safety education. The interest in schools taking on SROs has increased after recent mass shootings.

Wilson Superintendent Timothy Carter said that while the issue has gained a lot of interest recently, Wilson was already having discussions about taking on an SRO earlier this year — in discussions on using its funding from the American Rescue Plan.

“It started with people asking why Wilson doesn’t have an SRO, and then it moved to me asking the board that same question, and they commissioned the school safety team to do some research into what a school SRO duties are," Carter explained.

A proposed plan for taking on an SRO specified at the hearing involved spending $89,000 on a 10-month period where an officer from the sheriff’s office would be stationed at the district.

Filicetti did state that while most anecdotal responses to the SROs currently employed in the county have been positive, there hasn’t been any data accumulated as to what impact they’ve had on the districts that they’re a part of.

“I hear good things where our people or SRO’s from other departments work with the kids, and have good outcomes,” he said. “Whether they’re in crisis, or they’re just looking for someone to talk to, or they just feel safer being in their school. A lot of that is hard to measure, but you can say that there’s positive outcomes.”

He also specified that the appointment of an SRO would also differ based on the individual officers interest in the district, and its community.

Currently Wilson is one of the only two school districts in Niagara County that don’t have an SRO. Royalton-Hartland is the other district, and is already in the process of taking on an SRO later this year from the Middleport Police Department. Filicetti has stated that he feels confident in the ability of any SRO regardless of what department they come from.

“It doesn’t matter what uniform they’re wearing,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what patch they’re wearing on their sleeve, as long as they’ve been properly trained as SROs and are doing the job the way it’s intended to be done.”

While input was received from the public, Carter specified that the Wilson school board would still need to make a decision on whether to take on an SRO and when they'd be put into place.

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