Resource Officer Begins Position At Norwich Schools
Published: January 31st, 2022
By: Sarah Genter

Resource officer begins position at Norwich schools City of Norwich Police Department Chief Rodney Marsh. Marsh selected an officer from the Norwich Police Department for the part time school resource officer (SRO) position, and they began on Monday, January 24. The SRO will spend two and a half hours each day in the Norwich middle and high schools. (Photo by Sarah Genter)

NORWICH — After discussions and planning between the City of Norwich, the City of Norwich School District, and the City of Norwich Police Department, an agreement has been established between the entities and a school resource officer (SRO) has officially started their position at the Norwich middle and high schools.

Currently, the position is part time, with the officer spending two and a half hours per day at the schools. City of Norwich Mayor Brian Doliver said he felt it was important to start slow, as having an SRO in the schools is something new for the police department and the school district.

"This is a brand new thing, and I wanted to kind of come into this slowly," he explained. "So Superintendent [Scott] Ryan and I agreed to start out at two and a half hours. There's parts of the day where he felt that it was more important than others, so we agreed on a two and a half hour time frame, presently."

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He also noted that while the SRO will be present in the middle and high schools for that time frame each day, they are permitted to leave in the case of an emergency.

"We’ve promised this two and half hour window that they will be exclusively there, barring an emergency," said Doliver. "That’s important to note to the community too, if there were an emergency that school resource officer is leaving to address that."

While there has never been an SRO in the schools before, NPD officers were always welcome in the buildings and would occasionally stop in to walk through and speak with the students. Doliver explained that implementing an SRO was something he had tried to make happen in the past, but it wasn't possible until recently.

"I might be wrong, but I think we may be the only school in Chenango County that doesn’t have a school resource officer. It’s something I tried to work on a long time ago as an alderman, and at the time the school just didn’t have the money, and at the time we were not able to take that police officer off the street unless the school was able to reimburse that," said Doliver. "When superintendent Ryan reached out to me and said they were willing to do that now I was like, when do we start? So I’m very excited."

The officer began their SRO duties on Monday, January 24. Norwich Police Department Rodney Marsh said they will initially be spending time in the hallways and lunchrooms, to establish their presence in the schools and allow students and staff to get used to their company.

"Initially it will be to have an officer presence in the school during the students' unstructured times. The officer will be walking through the halls and lunch rooms and really just getting students [and] staff used to having an officer in the buildings for extended periods of time," said Marsh. "The hope is that having an officer’s presence in the school will help prevent any possible problems before they arise, and it will help to start building positive relationships with students."

Doliver said he hopes the officer will have an impact on troubled students, and also have a long-term effect on the issue of drug use throughout the city.

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"We can hope to work with kids, perhaps troubled teens, that are having issues and help perhaps turn things around for them, because those troubled teens become troubled adults. That’s our hope, that we can work with them," Doliver said.

"The severity of the issues that were going on in the school needed somebody from the police department to be in there. And it possibly can start to help with our other issues outside of the school, the drug issues we have," he added. "When I was campaigning I talked a lot about the drug issue in Norwich, and that was part of this kind of a complex way of addressing the drug issue. So it’s a long term issue, but I feel it’s important."

The agreement between the city and the school district states that the SRO will be in the schools until the end of this school year. From there, it's unclear if the SRO will return the following year, or how many years they will be in the schools. However, Marsh said he hopes for the program to continue, and that there is the possibility of the position becoming full time in the future.

"There hasn’t been any discussions about how many years [or] how long this might last. The agreement in place right now is for this to continue through the end of this school year. The hope is that it is successful and it continues," said Marsh. "There is the possibility that it will become a full time position. If it were to become a full time position, the police department would need to backfill the position, and we would be required to get a new officer to a Police Academy."

Additionally, the agreement has a 30-day opt out policy should the school or the city decide to terminate the position. According to Doliver, this means either party can implement the opt out at any time, and it would nullify the agreement after those 30 days.

"There is a 30 day opt out for both parties, whether it be the city or the school, in case there was a decision to part ways for any reason. It was important to have that, and the school agreed," Doliver explained. "I don’t believe we will have that, but it was important to have. You always want to be able to have flexibility, just in case."

However, all parties involved are hoping for a successful outcome, and hope establishing the SRO will make students more comfortable with law enforcement.

"The goal is that this SRO will build strong positive relationships with the students, and that the students feel comfortable approaching the officer with questions, problems, [and] concerns," said Marsh. "There needs to be positive interactions between the officer, the students, and the staff for this program to work and for it to be successful."