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After shooting at Franklin, Council panel moves to OK overtime for police patrols at city schools

James Brown
Benjamin Franklin High School Campus

Rochester City Council is one step closer to approving an agreement with the city school district for the Rochester Police Department to increase security outside of some schools.

City Council’s Public Safety Committee voted 6-3 Thursday to advance the contract for consideration by the full council. Members will take up the measure at City Council’s Jan. 24 meeting.

If passed, the legislation would reimburse police officers with overtime pay to monitor outside of 5 schools in the district in two 4-hour shifts, each scheduled around arrivals and dismissals. That's a minimum of $84 an hour per officer.

"With patrol shortages, trying to do it with on duty officers is just simply not feasible,” Rochester Police Chief David Smith said.

The contract comes after a student was shot at, but not struck, in the entranceway to Franklin high school last week. Since then, five schools have been flagged for police monitoring at arrival and dismissal times.

Mayor Malik Evans says police are already providing the service at the request of the school board, but the council’s decision to approve legislation would make it official.

“We're providing it because someone almost got their head blown off … and we didn't want to wait, right? So that's why we're doing it.” Mayor Malik Evans said ahead of the committee vote. But [the city school board members] want this consistently, they want certainty, and they want a contract.”

But some Council members opposed relying on police for school safety, and not taking a proactive approach to keep students safe.

“These situations are going to keep happening, and they happen at their home and they happen at their school," said Council Vice President Mary Lupien, who voted against the measure. “It follows them because it has a root.”

"We need to do better at the individual level solving these problems so they don't continue to follow the kids around,” Lupien continued. “I don't believe that stationing police outside the school does that.”

In order to fulfill the request of the city school board to have officers outside of schools like Franklin, Northeast Prep, Edison, and Wilson, Smith said due to labor agreements, any officers assigned to the detail must be paid overtime.

“During the times when students are arriving and leaving, [officers] are to be out of their cars, they will not be in the schools, but they will be out on the grounds interacting with the students.” Smith said. “The rest of the four-hour block, they can then engage in motorized patrol in and around the designated schools that they're assigned.”

The city school district would be responsible for reimbursing police overtime costs from Jan. 11 through June 22 at a maximum amount of $336,000.

Noelle E. C. Evans is an education reporter/producer with a background in documentary filmmaking and education.