Public Barks At Baraka, School Security Still With Police, Chief Gaudett Cautions Education Board Against School Security Change

It was a long and noisy night that went into Tuesday morning for the Board of Education led by new president Sauda Baraka who was prepared to return school security under the authority of the school board. The public blasted the agenda item saying security is working better under police authority. Hearing public outcry, Baraka and school board members who had supported school board control reversed course. It was sent back to committee for further study. In the short term, at least, sanity prevails.

CT Post reporter Linda Conner Lambeck has more:

School security remains for the time being in the hands of city police department after the new school board was delivered a double blow of a crowd not on their side and a legal opinion telling them they were wrong.

After a blistering two hours of public comment, a board that seemed prepared to undo a memorandum of understanding between police and the school district engineered when a state-appointed school board was in control voted unanimously after midnight Tuesday morning to send the proposal back to committee for more study.

Full story here.

Citing a legal opinion from the City Attorney’s Office as well as city ordinance, Bridgeport Police Chief Joe Gaudett on Monday sent a letter to members of the Board of Education establishing his authority over existing school security personnel as the school board weighs returning control of security operations to the school district which has come under fire on several fronts. The school board is expected to take up an agenda item on this issue at its meeting tonight.

“The ultimate legal authority for the deployment supervision and control of these eight Special Officers rests with the Chief of Police of the City of Bridgeport,” Gaudett writes. “If the BOE wishes to assert that it has ultimate legal control and authority over the deployment of these Special Police and therefore refuses to acknowledge the legal authority of the Chief of police in this regard, then I as chief will be left with no alternative than to notify POST and request that the certification of these officers be released. The result will be that these eight officers stand to lose their legal authority to make arrests, use force, or in any other way operate as police officers within the City of Bridgeport.”

Critics of security back under school board control say this is an effort to undo any progress made under outgoing Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas. The school board, following the November election, is now under control of an anti-Vallas coalition. In his letter, Gaudett cites the savings to the school district and the increased security measures as a result of the decision made nearly two years ago.

Gaudett’s letter follows:

Re: Special Police Assigned to Bridgeport Board of Education

Dear Members of the Bridgeport Board of Education:

I received a copy of the agenda for the Board of Education for January 13, 2014 and noted that it lists the following agenda item:

“Out of Security Committee: Motion to rescind Motion to consolidate BRIDGEPORT Board of  Education security with Bridgeport police Department made on January 23,2012 and return control of security operations to the Bridgeport Public School District.”

As you are aware, the Bridgeport Police Department, pursuant to the motion passed by the Bridgeport Board of Education on January 23, 2012, has directed significant resources to improve the quality of security services provided to the students of the City of Bridgeport. The Bridgeport Police Department has provided, at its full cost, the services of a Deputy Chief, a Captain, a Lieutenant and a Sergeant to oversee the daily operations of the school security guards and to coordinate the response of the five BPD officers serving as School Resource Officers and the eight Special Police Officers assigned to the schools. It is my firm belief that this supervision has produced a significant upgrade in the level of security services provided to our students, resulted in improved efficiencies and increased the professionalism of the security operations present in the schools.

In addition, because the Bridgeport Police Department, not the Bridgeport Board of Education, is paying the costs associated with this supervision, the School District has not had to incur the significant administrative costs to provide a supervisor for its security operations. Further, the BPD has also assumed the cost to provide training to the security guards in areas such as responding to active shooter situations and in so doing we have provided to these school security guards a level of training. and supervision that they had previously never received. In these days following the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut, the importance of this type of training and coordination of security services between a board of education and a municipal police force cannot be overstated.

The direct participation of the BPD in supervising the BOE security operations has also led to increased efficiencies and lower costs for the BOE. The BPD has absorbed overtime costs in its budget that without this agreement would have been paid for out of the BOE budget. Significant investment in security technology has been provided by the BPD at no cost to the BOE, resulting in the creation of a command center for BOE security operations that vastly increased the quality of security services provided to our students. My officers have identified expenses previously incurred by the BOE that,
with the implementation of operational reform, are no longer being incurred.

The result of these efforts has been to reduce the amount of BOE funds dedicated to security-related administrative expenses and allowed such funds to be redirected to educational services for the students of Bridgeport, while leaving the responsibility to provide a safer learning environment for our students to the BPD.

While it is my absolute belief that the present arrangement between the BOE and BPD has resulted in safer schools, increased coordination of security services, and a significant savings in administrative and operational costs for the BOE, I am also aware from the meeting last week of the BOE Ad Hoc Security Committee that there is a desire among certain members of the BOE to terminate this productive arrangement and “return the control of security operations to the Bridgeport School District”.

While this decision is, of course, the prerogative of the BOE, I intend on making clear to the BOE at this point in time what such a vote will mean with regard to the command and control of certain law enforcement personnel presently assigned to the schools.

As you know, the BPD presently assigns five police officers to the BOE as SRO’s. These POST-certified, sworn police officers are full-time members of the BPD and are members of AFSCME local 1159, Council 15. As such they are deployed to the schools pursuant to my legal authority as Chief of Police and they will continue to operate, subject to my discretion, direction and control, within the school system.

Further, there are presently eight Special Police Officers assigned to the Bridgeport Board of Education. These POST-certified, sworn police officers are members of NAGE Local R-1-200. Pursuant to Bridgeport City Ordinance 2.40.060 entitled “Special Policemen – Appointment”, as well as the statutes and regulations related to their POST certification, these eight BOE Special Police Officers are subject to my legal authority as Chief of Police. Therefore, notwithstanding any vote taken by the BOE regarding the continuation of the agreement created by the BOE on January 23, 2012, these eight Special Police Officers will remain subject to my supervision and control with regard to their deployment as BOE Special Police Officers. To the extent that any issue should arise between the BOE and the BPD with regard to the nature and scope of the operational deployment of these eight Special Police Officers, please be clearly advised that, as sworn police officers, these eight Special Police Officers report to the Chief of Police of the City of Bridgeport. As POST certified law enforcement officers operating within the City of Bridgeport they are, and will remain, subject to my legal authority as Chief of Police and the ultimate authority for their deployment as police officers rests with my office, and not with the Board of Education or its agents.

A legal opinion supporting this position issued by the Office of the City Attorney is attached.

The ultimate legal authority for the deployment supervision and control of these eight Special Officers rests with the Chief of Police of the City of Bridgeport. If the BOE wishes to assert that it has ultimate legal control and authority over the deployment of these Special Police and therefore refuses to acknowledge the legal authority of the Chief of police in this regard, then I as chief will be left with no alternative than to notify POST and request that the certification of these officers be released. The result will be that these eight officers stand to lose their legal authority to make arrests, use force, or in any other way operate as police officers within the City of Bridgeport.



    1. When Maria P. spoke about this in 2013, it seemed it was an issue that had to do with providing security to athletic teams off premises, among other things. A review of the minutes of that meeting could confirm that.
      If it is revealed “all police officers” are ultimately responsible to the police chain of command, regardless of POST, union, etc., then we will have learned something.
      And if full-year employment including summertime work is available (as some school police wish and others seem to wish to avoid) and duties include parks and/or other places where youth congregate, will someone please point out the problem?
      Finally, how do teachers, principals and most parents feel about the security efforts of the past two years? Let’s hear from some of the “grassroots” who are not regularly heard from. Is it possible there is a base of support for the current consolidation that has been silent, mostly because they were not told this was in play? What would happen if union dues, BEA leadership and Working Families Party door-knocking were expended to get the word out about the BOE changes? What is truly broken so badly it needs fixing? What are the financial facts of this situation? Time will tell.

      1. POST is an acronym for Police Officer Selection Test. Under the auspices of the Connecticut Department of Public Safety this state administers the POST-C (Conn). Additionally, the school police officers do work a 12-month schedule. The school security guards have the opportunity for summertime work.

    1. Sometimes you need to sum all the parts to understand the whole. There is a good deal of background that needs to come out in review before alternatives are understood and decisions can be clearly made. Is anything broken here? Time will tell.

    2. They are not being brought in, they created it. If one considers who is in favor of taking control of the security of the schools, it is the WFP members, or those Democrats who are aligned with the WFP voting bloc. Moales does not want it, Kelleher does not, Larcheveque does not (from what I am told). I don’t know where Hennessey stands. Who does that leave? It is rocket science, it is right in our faces.

  1. *** When it comes to school security in the schools in this day & age it should be managed by the local P/D, not BOE politicians who can’t make a decision about how many books they should buy for the 6th grade classes and whether to sweep Johnny Doe’s possession of five bags of weed in his locker under the rug ’cause he’s on the B-ball team, or call police. ***

  2. My only two cents are there is some debate nationwide about the use of law enforcement in schools, and especially in inner-city schools. Those in favor indicate law enforcement makes schools safer. Those opposed indicate this is not necessarily the case and juveniles, particularly students of color are disproportionately arrested, which raises juvenile justice issues. I side with the latter position. The research clearly shows students of color, particularly boys, are disproportionately sent to the office, suspended and expelled. They are even more likely to experience these disciplinary consequences for subjective misbehaviors such as “insubordination.” The concern is the arrests or any other consequences generated by police officers will follow the same established pattern, and there is evidence that suggests it does. This is problematic because this places these children at disproportionate risk for poor academic and behavioral outcomes. In general, restrictive environments tend to promote zero-tolerance approaches that are known to have negative impacts on children. We need less restrictive school environments, but rather school environments that give children a sense of place, belonging and connectedness. If we can establish this, we won’t really need police officers to begin with.

    1. “There is some debate nationwide about the use of law enforcement in schools, and especially in inner-city schools.”

      There are many crackpot education theories that are debated nationwide. Typically those new approaches replaced traditional methods of instruction and discipline that had worked very successfully for decades educating non-English-speaking immigrant children so they could step into the American dream.

      Thanks to the results of those debates, we have Bridgeport public schools and throughout the country not completing their mission and sending educated kids out to the workforce, ready to be employed. Consequently, this debate regarding children of color being more harshly disciplined is ridiculous. Even more so in Bridgeport which is overwhelmingly minority.

      On another note, this new school board looks to be even more dysfunctional than the board it replaced. Hard to believe.

      1. Something has to be done about the meeting length. With a packed house, full agenda, and over 60 people signed up to speak, they went into executive session for at least 90 minutes. For a group that stresses parental involvement, they don’t make it any easier. Not too many parents can devote six hours, on a school/work night, to these meetings. Why not reverse the order and do the executive meeting at the end?

  3. Last evening there were many stakeholders from different parts of the community who came, signed up to speak, and waited patiently for that opportunity.
    Fortunately, good sense prevailed, and the public had its opportunity for comment without abbreviation. Give the new BOE a chance to sort out the issues, to listen to all stakeholders and reflect on where they are and what priorities call for their attention.
    Last night it certainly seemed whereas security issues within the schools including decorum and in-school behavior had been a contributing factor to poor academic results, the stories coming from Curiale, Dunbar, and a variety of other schools suggests the current Police/SRO/sworn school police/school security personnel continuum is getting better results than what obtained previously.
    Use the BOE Committee system to gather facts, study the questions that surround the priority issues and comeback to the public meetings with well-thought-out proposals and presentations. This afternoon the Budget committee meets. Perhaps they will look at the expense of separating security functions in light of info from last night. Maybe they won’t but most moves have a financial component, and if a finance committee is not meeting, you have to ask whether those issues are well understood and ready to be communicated to taxpayers. Time will tell.

    1. Please John, the facts. Just the facts. Independent and verifiable. Statements like “suggest that … personnel continuum is getting better results” are just BS.

  4. What does this cost the Board of Ed budget? Can someone answer this question? I am convinced Finch, Sherwood, Anastasi and Gaudett are doing all of this to spend more money on the city side of the budget. That I am sure of.

    1. Bob,
      Had you gone to the BOE Finance Committee meeting yesterday at 5 PM you could have obtained the info you requested just as Chairman Andre Baker had.
      You could have also gotten your hissy fit accomplished in person.
      Bob, I do not disagree with your suggestion that certain people want funds spent on the City side, but where are your independent, verifiable facts? Or are your statements not BS because they are uttered by the GREAT WALSH?
      Bob, if we are in agreement often, it is not apparent from your communication. If we are in disagreement often, I guess it’s tough. Use facts. My comments were based on the large number of speakers on Monday evening supportive of the status quo on school security issues. Did that surprise you? Did the community support, articulate and specific, surprise the community? I think so. Perhaps there will be more surprises of this kind in the near future (please be patient, Bob). Time will tell.

  5. *** Liberals worry more about what group’s getting zoomed more than the other, instead of worrying about safety, school rules and overall crime in schools and its grounds before, during and after school. When there’s a classroom fight in school, I’m sure they don’t call the BOE! ***


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