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Buffalo School Board looking into role, cost of security officers

MIke Desmond
Buffalo School Board members talk virtually on the issue of its security officers.

There are three different security forces in Buffalo's public schools and the board of education wants more information about how they mesh and what it all costs.

The district has its own security officers, 54 of them, with two supervisors and seven to be hired. Buffalo Police has a bureau and a chief for the 120 schools across the district and there are off-duty officers who work details at various events.

The school district can easily figure out what the security officers cost but it does not know what Buffalo Police spend for the Student Resource Officers (SROs) who work in the buildings. No one could tell the Wednesday evening virtual meeting how much is spent on the off-duty officers. There also is no contract for their services.

Board Member Larry Scott spoke to Security Executive Director Fred Wagstaff.

"It seems like you have more collaborations with the other SROs that you mentioned that have this training, but it seems like these are Buffalo police officers that don't have the training," Scott said. "The way it's sounding, they're operating kind of independently in the buildings. I'm just wondering, what policies do you have to make it clear what their role and procedures are?"

Wagstaff said the SROs are specially trained to work in schools, but did not know what kind of training the off-duty officers have.

Many board members said students feel safer with the officers in the halls, although others wanted to know more about what the ground rules are for their services and what school training the off-duty officers have.

"I just know many of these people, these SROs, they walk around that school and they give those a kids a sense of pride. They give them role models," said board member Paulette Woods. "They make a difference, and when we have gangs and situations going in our communities, their presence helps our children feel safe."

Board member Hope Jay was on the other side, saying she did not like armed police in the school halls and questioning their role.

"De-escalate situations with minors in school buildings and on school property in order to have those contacts with the police not escalate to the point where our students are being arrested and then into either Family Court or the criminal justice system," Jay said.

The city police have long patrolled access to some city schools surrounded by different gang territories, which make some kids reluctant to cross lines for classes. There are other schools known as having strong gang activity.

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