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NYPD Eliminates Special Unit Responding to School Emergencies, Sources Say

By Shaye Weaver | July 13, 2015 11:49am
 The NYPD eliminated schools units in four precincts and replaced them with a community policing approach.
The NYPD eliminated schools units in four precincts and replaced them with a community policing approach.
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BMR Breaking News/Roy Renna

UPPER EAST SIDE — The NYPD is changing the way its precincts respond to schools in an emergency.

As part of the city's new community policing project, the NYPD is doing away with its schools units and will instead rely on the officers assigned to respective neighborhood beats to respond to the schools, sources said.

Schools units, which exist based on a precinct's needs, consist of a handful of officers who provide backup to area schools when incidents escalate, whether its a fight or a student skipping school, sources said.

A new pilot that rolled out in four precincts — the 33rd and 34th precincts in Washington Heights and Inwood, and the 100th and 101st precincts in Rockaway — shifted some officers' roles so that some who would normally respond to emergencies are sent to patrol streets instead, including those officers in schools units, sources said.

The change is more of a restructuring of resources than it is an elimination of the schools unit, according to sources.

The new protocol is expected to be implemented across the city, starting with the Upper East Side's 19th Precinct in the near future, an NYPD representative told District 2's Community Education Council, according to member Eric Goldberg.

Like others, the 19th precinct's schools unit is composed of four officers — two truant officers and two officers trained to defuse emergency situations — who respond to any school within the precinct, the NYPD rep told the CEC, Goldberg explained.

These officers are different from full-time school safety agents, who are posted at every school within the precinct. School safety agents can make arrests, but when there is a situation that requires more help, the schools unit is called in. Under the plan, the school safety agents will remain.

The plan has raised some concerns among parents.

Todd Helmrich, a parent of students at P.S. 158, is worried about the possible repercussions of taking away a specific unit trained to deal with school emergencies and other issues that arise, he said.

"As a parent, having talked to many principals and school safety officers, it is evident to me these youth officers play a vital role in keeping our children and school safe," he said during the CEC's July 8 meeting. "Those who this impacts were not part of the discussion."

Helmrich believes the NYPD should not eliminate the schools units and that the CEC should oppose any plans to do so. A website run by and for parents, nyckidsfirst.org, is asking parents to talk to their elected officials about the plan.

With news of the change, the CEC considered a resolution last week stating opposition to the removal of the 19th Precinct's school unit, saying the unit's in-depth knowledge of each school more easily defuses potential issues and that these officers have developed a relationship with school administrations, parents and students.

But on Wednesday, after a representative from the precinct ensured there would still be officers assigned to the schools, the council decided to table the resolution.

The CEC plans to reintroduce a resolution in August or September that outlines its recommendations, including assigning specially trained officers to schools who will maintain a direct point of contact with them, according to Goldberg.

"I was very comfortable that the Police Department and Department of Education are aware of the changes and are going to work with the community to ensure we have the resources that we need," Goldberg said. "I'm comfortable that they will be addressing any concerns and ensure our schools are safe."