NJ schools add armed officers at steep cost

One wealthy township is stationing the officers in schools for 90 days. Added security is a top concern for educators and parents after last month's Connecticut shootings.

By Jonathan Berr Jan 3, 2013 7:38PM
Credit Rick Bowmer/AP
Caption: Cori Sorensen, a fourth grade teacher from Highland Elementary School in Highland, Utah, receives firearms training with a .357 magnum from personal defense instructor Jim McCarthy during concealed weapons training for 200 Utah teachers Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, in West Valley City, UtahEight armed police officers have begun temporarily patrolling school district buildings in Marlboro, N.J., a wealthy New Jersey enclave about 40 miles south of New York City.

The new policy may not have garnered much attention before. But arming school guards has been a hotly debated subject in the weeks since a 20-year-old gunman stormed into Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., and killed 20 children and six educators.

Hiring armed security officers, an idea advocated by the National Rifle Association, may cost the nation's cash-strapped schools more than $5 billion, according to published reports.

The cost for the patrols by eight off-duty Marlboro police officers for the next 90 days is expected to be $100,000, district spokeswoman Sharon Witchell said in an interview. Marlboro schools already have two armed officers, and before the Newtown massacre there was no conversation about increasing that number. An assessment will be done after 90 days and the district will decide what action to take next, such as hiring a security consultant.

Marlboro is hardly alone. In the days after the senseless slaughter at Sandy Hook, many schools have reviewed their security policies. My son's elementary school, for instance, now requires visitors to show photo identification before entering the building. But the NRA's call for "armed guards" in schools and allowing teachers and other personnel to carry weapons has aroused much concern among educators. Experts have cautioned that it could create costly insurance liabilities for districts in the event of a gun fight in which innocent people were shot and possibly killed.

Though President Obama has eloquently expressed the nation's heartache over Newtown, under his administration funding for programs to combat school violence has been cut and more emphasis has been put on bullying prevention, according to Ken Trump, a school safety expert.

"While no one can say whether these programs would have specifically prevented the Sandy Hook attack, it can easily be argued that the elimination of these federal grant programs de-emphasized school security, school police, school emergency preparedness, and school violence," he wrote on his blog, adding the Obama administration has "quietly eliminated all programs associated with the security, policing, emergency preparedness, violence prevention, and mental health school safety programs."

The track record of police officers in schools is a mixed one. Many experts have argued that the Drug Abuse Resistance Education, a program in which officers educated kids about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, was ineffective. There is no guarantee that they could have prevented the tragedy at Newtown. Indeed, many commentators have noted that an armed officer was on duty in 1999 during the mass shooting at Columbine High School.
"We do not object to increased funding for school resource officers, but would like to see more emphasis placed upon school resource officers and educators being trained together in bullying, school safety, cultural competence, positive behavioral supports, and appropriate classroom management," writes Kim Anderson, the National Education Association's senior director of its Center for Advocacy and Outreach, in an email. "We are also mindful that school districts should not simply use the presence of an (armed officer) to improperly substitute criminal justice-oriented treatment of students rather than appropriate implementation of effective school conduct codes and discipline policies."

About 23% of the nation's school districts have law enforcement officers in their buildings, according to Francisco Negron, general counsel of the National School Boards Association. These officers typically earn about $80,000 per year. The group hasn't taken a position on whether more teachers and other school personnel should be armed.

"Different communities have different needs," he said, adding that the NSBA is concerned that policy makers could institute a one-size-fits-all approach to school safety in the aftermath of Newtown. "These are things that have to be decided on a local basis."

NRA head Wayne LaPierre has argued that there are plenty of people with weapons training such as members of the military who could be deployed to protect kids in schools right away. They aren't the same, though, as sworn police officers with additional training in counseling so they can build a rapport with students.  

Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter @jdberr

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Tags: GunsTaxes
Jan 4, 2013 9:26AM

You're kidding, right? Armed off-duty Police Officers getting premium wages to check out high school chicks in mini-skirts? Just another Old Guy problem that will escalate. Is there any Viagra screening being done?

Jan 4, 2013 6:09PM

Or you could offer good weapons training to qualified teachers and allow them to carry a concealed weapon. Before you give me some ridiculous scenario abour a deranged teacher stop and think whether a deranged teacher could just bring a gun to school anyway. At least this way a few anonymous people on school grounds would be able to defend innocent people from future armed madmen.


Think about it. It's a good idea and it's free to taxpayers.

Jan 4, 2013 8:05AM

This is a sweet job for 8 cops, that are working part time....When do they rest ??

Off duty Marlboro officers ?

By my calculations at a good wage (w/o benefits) They are paying roughly $35,000 too much for the 3-month period...

For what I consider a "cream puff job."

Seems certainly that the Marlboro officials, have way more money then brains....

Jan 4, 2013 8:22AM
This is a disgrace.  It is part of the ongoing corruption of Marlboro and the United States.  It is part of the ongoing transfer of wealth from those who pay their taxes into the system, and who get little or nothing for it, to those who have dedicated their lives and careers to squeezing as much as they can out of the system, getting back personally ten to twenty times what they put in.  Next these self-proclaimed "public servants" will want armed guards on school buses.  If there is any lesson in this for the students, it is to get a government job.
Jan 4, 2013 10:03AM

This is why the government shouldn't run anything. $100,000 for 8 guys over 90 days? Lets say all 8 work every school day for those 90 days. That is roughly 65 days of actual work (13 weeks * 5 days). School doesn't last 8 hours in most locals but we will say it does. That is a total man power of 4,160 hrs (8 hr/day * 65 days/officer * 8 officers). $100,000/4,160 is $24/hr which is equivalent to a salary of $49,920 for a 2nd job (they are off duty officers). That is assuming they work 8 hrs per day every day which I would bet anything the don't do. It is more likely a rotation since they already have full-time jobs. Must be nice.


Here are some numbers to consider... The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 1,028,830 security guards were working in 2009, earning an average wage of $12.70 per hour or $26,430 per year. The highest 10 percent of earners made an average of $19.34 per hour or $40,230 per year. That means this school district is paying DOUBLE the average rate and ~25% premium to the average of the TOP 10%. Another source said Armed Security Guards have an average salary of $31,000 ($14.90/hr). The school is paying a 61% premium to those numbers. No matter how you crack it. They are overpaying AT LEAST 25% or $25,000. And people want to give the government more control?!?!?!?! Unbelievable.

Seeing how bad the $100,000 is for these 8 guys, I won't bother going into the other part of the story, "About 23% of the nation's school districts have law enforcement officers in their buildings, according to Francisco Negron, general counsel of the National School Boards Association. These officers typically earn about $80,000 per year." You want to give me $80,000 to walk around a high school with a gun, I am all over it.

Jan 8, 2013 2:12PM
Did anyone consider the idea of using retired police officers, military veterans, trained concealed carry permit holders ect on a volunteer rotation basis?  I know the liberals go off on crap such as increasing the numbers of weapons in or around schools only make the matter worse.  Get real people!  The only thing that will stop a crazy like that is deadly force or the threat of deadly force.  Reality is reality the real world does not operate on what should be. 
Jan 4, 2013 10:39AM

Yeah thnkit...That's pretty much what I thought,but I used $20 per/hour and about 7 hrs. per day tops.


That pretty much why I said they are overpaying about $35,000 AT LEAST..



Jan 7, 2013 3:44PM
I think if we can send money to foreign countries, then we can support armed security in our schools.  Why is it okay for banks, sports events, politicians, and private companies to have armed security but not at schools?  The newspaper that published the names of gun owners in their readership was able to dish it out, but couldn't take it.  When the gun owners published the names and addresses of the editorial board, they hired ARMED SECURITY to patrol their building.  Also, for everyone's information the standard capacity of removable magazines is not 10.  The designer of the firearm figures out what number of rounds the magazine will hold.  The standard Army issue M-16 (full auto version of the AR 15) magazine holds twenty rounds.
Jan 7, 2013 3:00PM
It's easy spending other people's money.
Jan 7, 2013 12:32PM

The $52 billion spent on foreign aid in 2010 would be enough to pay for the salaries (ave cop salary in US about $50,400/yr) the salaries of 10 cops for each of the roughly 100,000 public schools in the US.


I guess helping arm Pakistan is more important.

Jan 4, 2013 11:45AM
The PORK in the Fiscal Cliff Bill would pay for armed guards in all the US schools.

How much is a child's life worth folks?

The problem I see is we spend too much on government. But why not at least prioritize the spending for something worthwhile?

Jan 6, 2013 11:37PM
If you take into consideration of how many elementary, junior high, and high schools are in United States of America and put one or two at each school.. it's just a waste of money and not a valid resolution. Where is the money going to come from? More taxes?  

The resolution is to do away with magazines for 10 or more bullets, assualt weapons, better background checks (including at gun shows), requiring individuals to have a license to have a gun and  to renew their licenses with proof of taking gun safety classes each year and re-register their guns every 2 years.  There's too many "stolen"  guns on the street that get into the hands of criminals as well.   Yes we have the right to bear arms but you also need to be responsible for every weapon you own and prove it! 
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