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January 12, 2013

Chief aims to restore school officer

Proposal in response to Newtown, other tragedies

GEORGETOWN — Police Chief Jim Mulligan is seeking to renew police presence in the town’s schools in the wake of recent violence from Connecticut to California.

Mulligan will go before selectmen Monday night seeking support to restore funding for the Police Department’s school liaison officer position on a part-time basis in hopes of minimizing the potential for deadly violence to occur locally.

Officials everywhere are grappling with how to keep children safe following the December tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., when a gunman blasted his way into the school, killing 20 first-graders and six staff members.

Mulligan said what law enforcement professionals have learned from that tragedy as well as Thursday’s shooting at Taft Union High School in California, this summer’s theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., and other tragedies is that when it comes to school and mass shootings, no community is immune.

“Newtown is every town,” Mulligan said. “What happened there, can happen anywhere.”

Following the horror of Newtown, Mulligan took part in a community forum to discuss the issue with educators, parents and residents. He listened, then told the group what police professionals have found themselves having to explain recently.

“I told them I can’t stop this kind of thing,” Mulligan said. “What we can do is try to minimize it.”

Georgetown once had a full-time school resource officer, a trained professional who worked in the schools every day. For three years, the position was partially underwritten by a federal grant. The fourth year, the job was funded by the town, as the grant required. But after that, the funds to maintain a full-time police presence in the schools were cut, Mulligan said.

The position was reduced to a police liaison officer three days a week, the chief said. But even that fell victim to budget cuts when finances got dicey a few years ago, he said.

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