New Canaan Police have assigned an additional officer to bolster security at schools in town, under a new initiative, and have dramatically increased the number of times that officers check on local school campuses.
The number of school checks from officers increased from four in September 2021 to 132 in September 2022, Police Chief Leon Krolikowski told members of the Police Commission at their most recent meeting. Through the first nine months of the year, school checks were up to 217 compared to 57 at the same time in 2021, Krolikowski said at the Oct. 19 meeting, held at police headquarters and via videoconference.
In addition to full-time NCPD school resource officers at both Saxe Middle School and New Canaan High School, Officer Shane Gibson has been designed “school security officer” in a new position that brings him primarily to all public schools in New Canaan but also to private schools, the chief said.
“They all work together as a team along with the campus monitors and school administration to keep our schools as safe as can be, and we’re in the process of getting some equipment that we can give to them that will help them in the event of a crisis respond better to an incident,” he told the Commission during its regular meeting.
“We’re continually working with the school system making suggestions and recommendations as to how things could be better,” Krolikowski said. “But I feel very comfortable with the state of things right now, how they are. There is always room for improvement but that continues to be a focus point and something that we are very concerned about. We regularly do training in all the schools, officers are trained if there’s a threat at a school or a building, the first officer goes in and finds that threat and stops that threat from hurting people. So that’s the best practice now and that’s what our officers are trained to do. And I’m confident they’ll do that in a situation that comes up. Hopefully it will never happen, we’ll prevent it, but if it did, our officers are exceptionally well trained. So the community should be reassured that if an incident did happen in New Canaan, our officers are trained to respond quickly and they’re going to take care of that threat and do what needs to be done.”
The comments came during an update on school security to the Commission. The police had asked for $100,000-plus in American Rescue Plan Act funding earlier this year to boost school security, and the town funding bodies honored the request.
“It’s been a very successful initiative,” Krolikowski said. “Our cost has been very low as far as overtime is concerned. That could increase based on our staffing, but it’s been a great initiative and I think it’s been welcomed on many levels.”
The Commission asked whether Gibson visits private schools as well as the public schools (yes, though the focus is on the New Canaan Public Schools) and how often he’s physically located in one school versus driving among them (it depends on the need).
“He’s been welcomed with open arms and so he sometimes spends a couple of horus at one and then another and another,” the chief said. “In between that, the shift has been great in checking the schools, driving around the schools, stopping by periodically, so it’s been a group team effort. He [Gibson] tries not to spend a tremendous amount of time at one school.”