An Open Letter to the Community from Chief Robert F. Leighton
To all residents of Northfield and the Pioneer Valley School District:
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts mandated, in January 2015, that all school systems employ at least one school resource officer (SRO) in their school districts. The Northfield Police Department fully supports this mandate.
A Northfield school resource officer in the PVRS district would be just that - a resource. He or she would work in partnership with the schools to provide students with the tools necessary to become successful adults. At the same time, the SRO would provide a consistent presence in the schools, would be a positive role model, and would work to insure a safe learning environment.
The SRO would be a member of the Northfield Police Department and would be available to address any criminal act with an appropriate criminal enforcement response. My hope is that as time passes and the officer builds a relationship with the students there will be less reason for law enforcement and more opportunities to build trust and friendship.
A SRO for our school district would work to support the continuation of the D.A.R.E. program in our schools. Currently Northfield is one of the only towns in Franklin County that teaches D.A.R.E. Unfortunately, Franklin County has not escaped the serious opiate issues that are now common throughout New England, and it is more important than ever that we continue to be proactive in educating our children about this danger. I would like to see the D.A.R.E. program offered in all elementary schools in our district. Only when we use every avenue to keep our children safe from this epidemic will we bring this problem under control. A school resource officer can help us bring D.A.R.E. to all district elementary students.
Our SRO would be instrumental in reaching out to our children and teaching them strategies for bullying and internet safety. We are now living in a time when social media and the internet can have a major impact on our children. We have worked closely with the health teachers at PVRS to provide information to the students about drugs and alcohol. We have even been involved in programs for juniors and seniors at PVRS about being safe when they leave home and transition to college life. A school resource officer can help our young people navigate an unsafe world with knowledge as their very best ally.
There is barely a day that goes by when we do not hear of some random act of violence in one of our nation’s schools. It would not be unreasonable to envision a delayed response to an emergency in one of our schools due to the unavailability of an officer. Having an SRO on site would bring an added level of safety, security, timely response, and peace of mind to students, parents, teachers, administrators, and to the NPD.
The NPD continues to advocate for the addition of school resource officers in our schools. We believe the addition of a school resource officer to the Northfield school district is imperative as we strive to educate our children in the safest and most supportive environment possible. As Northfield's police chief, I am committed to making the schools in our district better and safer places for our children, and I believe strongly that a school resource offcer, working with our teachers and administrators, can help prepare our students for a complex and challenging world. I write to ask for your support on this issue of critical importance for our schools.
Robert F. Leighton, Chief of Police
The mission of the Northfield Police Department, in partnership with the community, is to provide quality police services through crime prevention and to promote safety and security while safeguarding the constitutional rights of all people.