New school safety unit deployed after RTM OKs funding | #schoolsaftey

Officers assigned to the Police Department’s new “School Safety Unit” include: Officer Sean Kelley, left, the unit’s supervisor, and Officer Ed Wooldridge, the school resource officer at Staples High School. / Contributed photos
The new unit’s school safety officers are, from left, Officer Dennis Broderick, Cpl. Rachel Hall and Officer Edward Batlin.

By John Schwing

WESTPORT — The Police Department’s new School Safety Unit, with an expanded complement of five officers, will be deployed Monday at the town’s schools.

After final funding approval was granted Tuesday by the Representative Town Meeting, police officials on Friday announced the personnel assigned to the unit.

The  RTM approved $345,653 to add three new officers to the unit, which is roughly $85,000 less than listed in the resolution initially proposed to the legislative body, according to Police Chief Foti Koskinas.

First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker, addressing the RTM, said the proposal had her “full support,” even though it will mean an annual budgetary increase to maintain the school patrols.

“It is the absolute important thing we need to do to protect our kids and to protect our school staff,” Tooker said.

The school resource officer already assigned to Staples High School has been well received, according to Koskinas.  The chief said he has “not heard anything but very positive” feedback about the SRO.

The unit will comprise the Staples SRO, a group supervisor and three school safety officers whose patrols will encompass six school properties — two schools each. The SSOs will primarily remain outside school buildings, but will work with school administrators as needed. They also will address traffic and pedestrian issues at their respective schools, as well as general safety concerns.

To address questions voiced about effectiveness of the safety officers’ coverage for all schools, considering the varied distance between buildings, Koskinas said the unit’s format will be reviewed and adjusted if issues arise.

The RTM approved the money for the three additional officers unanimously.

Officers assigned to the School Safety Unit are:

Officer Sean Kelley, the new unit’s supervisor, will be promoted to sergeant in the near future, according to the announcement. Kelley, who has been a detective in the Police Department’s Youth Division, will be based at Bedford Middle School.

Officer Ed Wooldridge will continue his assignment as the school resource officer at Staples High School.

Officer Dennis Broderick will be assigned to Coleytown Elementary and Coleytown Middle schools. A former Milford police officer, he was hired last year by Westport, and has spent half of his 20-year career as a detective.

Cpl. Rachel Hall will be assigned to Saugatuck and Kings Highway elementary schools. A Westport officer since 2016, Hall is a member of the police marine, motorcycle and drone units, and also has been a desk officer.

Officer Edward “Ned” Batlin will be assigned to Long Lots and Greens Farms elementary schools. Batlin, hired in 2001, was the local D.A.R.E. officer many years. He also has been active with youth sports at the high school level and the Westport Police Athletic League.

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