Morris School District starting school year with something new: Armed police in elementary schools

Morris Township officials with special police officers for the Morris School District. L-R: MT Police Department (MTPD) Special Law Enforcement Officer class 3 (SLEO III) Emmett McDowell, MTPD SLEO III Douglas Turner, MTPD SLEO III David Peterson, MTPD Chief Mark DiCarlo, Township Mayor Peter Mancuso, Morris District Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast, Morris School District Manager of Safety and Operations Richard Ferrone, MTPD SLEO III Glenn Johnson, MTPD SLEO III Jose Gonzalez Jr., MTPD SLEO III Leslie Hudson Jr. September 2018. Photo courtesy of Morris Township police.
Morris Township officials with special police officers for the Morris School District. L-R: MT Police Department (MTPD) Special Law Enforcement Officer class 3 (SLEO III) Emmett McDowell, MTPD SLEO III Douglas Turner, MTPD SLEO III David Peterson, MTPD Chief Mark DiCarlo, Township Mayor Peter Mancuso, Morris District Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast, Morris School District Manager of Safety and Operations Richard Ferrone, MTPD SLEO III Glenn Johnson, MTPD SLEO III Jose Gonzalez Jr., MTPD SLEO III Leslie Hudson Jr. September 2018. Photo courtesy of Morris Township police.
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Editor’s note: After a Valentine’s Day shooting took 17 lives at a Florida high school, the Morris School District accelerated plans to upgrade security. Plans call for bulletproofing of windows and installation of vestibules for screening visitors. This year’s budget also includes nearly $500,000 to hire armed, retired police officers for each of the District’s 10 schools. Here is an update on that.

From Morris Township Police Chief Mark DiCarlo:

The Township of Morris and the Morris School District are pleased to announce the hiring of six Special Law Enforcement Officers that will be dedicated to school safety and security.

As the 2018-2019 school year begins this week, I wanted to advise you of some additions to each of the Morris Township schools within the Morris School District.

The Morris Township Police Department has hired six (6) retired Law Enforcement Officers and appointed them as Special Law Enforcement Officers, Class III (SLEO III’s). The SLEO III will be responsible for the security and safety of their assigned school.

These officers have full police powers and will be in full uniform in the following schools: Woodland School, Alfred Vail School, Hillcrest School, Normandy Park School, Sussex Avenue School, and Frelinghuysen Middle School.

The Morris Township Police started the process of hiring SLEO III’s in the spring of 2018 after meeting with Morris School District Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast and Morris School District Manager of Safety and Operations Richard Ferrone.

The meeting was held shortly after the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in February of 2018.

All of us agreed that the safety of our schools is one of our top priorities. School violence is a national concern and we are dedicated to providing the safest learning environment possible. The hiring of the SLEO III’s was wholeheartedly supported by Morris Township Mayor Peter Mancuso. Mayor Mancuso stated:

“It was our mission to hire qualified retired law enforcement officers to be visible in the schools while simultaneously providing added security and building relationships within the school community.”

In late 2016, Governor Christie signed legislation into law that established the SLEO III officer. The officer must be a retired police officer in “good standing,” under the age of 65, and comply with all Police Training Commission required training.

The SLEO III salary and expenses associated with training, uniforms and equipment are paid for by the Morris School District. However, the SLEO III is an employee of the Township of Morris.

The SLEO III officers have already completed Field Training and will start at their assigned school on Sept. 5, 2018. A short biography of each SLEO III is below.

Leslie Hudson Jr. is a retired Detective from the Plainfield Police Department. He retired in good standing after 25 years of service. He has been assigned to the Frelinghuysen Middle School and will work alongside the full time School Resource Officer, Patrolman McIver.

Douglas Turner is a retired police officer from Morris Township Police Department, where he served the community for 25 years and retired in good standing. He has been assigned to Normandy Park School.

David Peterson is a retired Captain from the Montville Police Department. He retired in good standing after 27 years of service. He has been assigned to the Hillcrest School.

Jose Gonzalez Jr. is a retired Detective Sergeant from the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. He began his career with the Newark Police Department where he was a recipient of the Purple Heart and worked in the gang and narcotics unit. He has been assigned to Sussex Avenue School.

Glenn Johnson retired as a Detective Sergeant from the Union Township Police Department after 26 years of service. He has been assigned to Alfred Vail School.

Emmett McDowell retired as a Sergeant after 25 years with the Upper Saddle River Police Department and is currently active in the United States Air Force Reserves. He has been assigned to Woodland School.

I want to thank the Morris School District, Morris Township Mayor Mancuso and the Township of Morris Committee for all of their support with our implementation of the SLEO III’s.

I would also like to wish everyone a safe and great start to the school year.

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