Bucco, DeCroce solution to Class III police officer shortage in schools advances in Assembly committee

Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (File Photo)

MORRIS COUNTY — An Assembly panel advanced a measure requested by Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco and Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce to address a shortage of Class III police officers to protect our schools.  The bill (A1400) makes retired state and county corrections officers eligible for the classification.

State Assemblyman Anthony Bucco. (File Photo)

The program was initiated through legislation sponsored by Bucco and signed into law in 2016 by then-Governor Chris Christie. The law allows retired police officers to work in schools to help protect the community. Law enforcement experts have predicted a shortage of available officers because of the stringent hiring requirements and an increase in demand by municipalities and school districts.

“Schools have scrambled to find retired police officers for several years and we want to make sure that more trained officers are available before they have to hire private security guards with less experience and at a higher cost,” said Bucco (R-Morris). “More than ever before, schools across the state are looking for special police officers to help protect our school communities.  These officers are in demand because they often come from the community and are familiar with the local police department and the school system.”

The uniformed, armed officers work part time and get paid at a lower scale, making it the most affordable option for placing guards in schools.  The special officers are paid about $30 or $40 an hour and are not entitled to a pension or benefits for their service, but they still report to the local chief of police.

“Retired corrections officers are job tested and proven in high-pressure situations,” said DeCroce (R-Morris).  “Their experience calming tensions and resolving confrontation will make the halls, cafeterias and playgrounds safer, and they will be ready to immediately respond to emergencies.”

A version of the bill (A4451) passed the Assembly 75-0 in May 2017 but was not taken up in the state Senate.