Police Chief Foti Koskinas

By Thane Grauel

WESTPORT — Three committees of the Representative Town Committee on Wednesday unanimously endorsed funding to hire school security officers.

The Board of Finance earlier approved the $432,063 request by Police Chief Foti Koskinas for three new SSOs. The full RTM has ultimate say on funding.

On Wednesday, the Education, Public Safety and Finance committees met online and unanimously endorsed the funding as well, but not before two hours of discussion.

The plan is to keep a school resource officer at Staples, currently a corporal, and have a school security officer, a sergeant, stationed at Bedford Middle School.

New school security officers, at the rank of patrolman, would be added to Kings Highway Elementary/Saugatuck Elementary, Greens Farms Elementary/Long Lots Elementary and Coleytown Middle School/Coleytown Elementary.

Unlike school resource officers, their duties would mostly be outside the buildings. They would be a presence on-site and at school events. Familiar with the premises and keeping an eye out for potential threats and criminal activities, according to a memo from Police Chief Foti Koskinas.

The discussion might have been long, but support never appeared in doubt.

RTM member Andrew Colabella, District 4, spoke about the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, noting that the shooter first drove by Newtown’s high school and left after he saw an armed officer outside.

“He continued to another school,” Colabella said. “It took seven minutes to commit the atrocities that he did.”

Phillip Perri, a father of two children who went through the public schools and a longtime supporter of more security, advocated for a higher level of police presence.

“The day the SRO started at Staples High School, the level of their stress on a daily basis went down substantially,” he said of his children.

“A true SRO is so much more valuable being present in a school, day in and day out,” he said.

The full RTM will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Town Hall auditorium.

Thane Grauel grew up in Westport and has been a journalist in Fairfield County and beyond for 35 years. Reach him at editor@westportjournal.com. Learn more about us here.