WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS) – One of the largest school districts in South Jersey is now under a new partnership. A full-time police officer will now be stationed inside every school in Washington Township to help keep the campuses secure and to help build better relationships with students.
Washington Township Police announced the shared services agreement that has been signed with the board of education as another layer of school security.
Most of these school resource officers, or SROs, are retired police officers and will work strictly inside the schools.
Police Chief Patrick Gurcsik said in the case of an emergency, this will help significantly decrease response times.
"It's my most important responsibility as chief of police, from Sept. 1 through June, is the safety and security of the school kids in these schools," Chief Gurcsik said.
He said five additional school resource officers have been hired, bringing the total to 12 in the department.
"They'll become part of the fabric of the community, part of the fabric of the school system," he said.
Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in Uvalde, Texas, last year after a gunman started shooting inside Robb Elementary School. Following that mass shooting, Chief Gurcsik said New Jersey's Attorney General issued a directive to all police chiefs and county prosecutors, recommending a greater police presence in schools.
Under the shared services agreement, full-time armed officers will be in every school in Washington Township and two SROs will be inside the high school.
"In today's society, it's paramount," Officer Giuseppe Morici said.
Morici retired after three decades in law enforcement. He graduated from Washington Township High School and said the job is also about more than just security.
"Being able to talk to the kids, I'll see my son's friends, I'll see kids I coached, and we all have that relationship and I get to know other kids in the district," Morici said.
Parents who spoke with CBS Philadelphia said having police more visible in schools helps put their nerves at ease.
"I think it's great. In the year 2023 we need that in every school," said Joanne Leahy.
"I think they definitely need it, and if they have the resources why not use it for that," added Trish Kenney.
A police cruiser will also be visible outside every school. The chief said having officers in the halls will also help students build trust with police at a young age.
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