Huntington Councilman Gene Cook has written to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, asking that he support the Suffolk County Police Department and the school districts throughout the Town of Huntington through the school resource officer program.
“I believe this program is vital to our schools because it not only adds a liaison between the police department and the school district, but it allows the students to have a relationship with a police officer that they are comfortable with in case an officer’s assistance is needed,” Cook wrote.
His letter is copied to local members of the state Legislature and Suffolk County Legislature as well as school superintendents.
“IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KEEP OUR CHILDREN SAFE, as a parent and a public servant I am sure you agree with this, that is why I am asking for all of us to work together to have SRO Officers available in every school district in Huntington and Suffolk County,” Cook continued.
The letter comes in the wake of a New York Times-ProPublica story about the deportation of a Huntington High School student who had come to the attention of the school resource officer and school officials after doodling his school mascot and scribbling the country code of his native Honduras. He ended up in a police database and was spotted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, who arrested him and ultimately had him deported.
The day after a school board meeting where the school resource officer’s actions were discussed, along with the school’s role and suspension policy, Suffolk County Second Precinct commander William Scrima told a community meeting that the officer was no longer based at Huntington High School.
The next day, a fight between Huntington High School students at a Burger King restaurant led to the stabbing of one student, and the arrest of three Latino students who were then characterized as MS-13 members by Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini. The lawyer for one of the students denies that his client is a gang member.
Huntington school superintendent James W. Polansky said at the board meeting that he would seek a memo of understanding between the police department and the district as to the role of the officer in the schools.
“I am very grateful for his involvement when it come to the safety of our children and the staff in all of our schools,” community activist Jim McGoldrick said. “Gene has done so much for our community.”
Several commenters on Facebook had complained about the lack of a town response after the Burger King fight.
Text of letter
Dear County Executive Bellone,
I hope this finds you well. I am writing you today, to ask you to support the Suffolk County Police Department and the School Districts in the Town of Huntington with the School Resource Officer Program. I believe this program is vital to our schools because it not only adds a liaison between the police department and the school district but it allows the students to have a relationship with a police officer that they are comfortable with in case an officer’s assistance is needed.
I am sure you are aware that there are school districts that are requesting a memorandum of understanding to “establish formal procedural guidelines” associated with the school resource officer position. As I understand this is because of a recent article between the NY Times and the nonprofit journalism organization ProPublica. More importantly, after this article ran there was a stabbing at a local Burger King; as many students have a relationship with the SRO Officer Drew they know they can speak with him in times of trouble and they may have felt more secure in school following this incident.
IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KEEP OUR CHILDREN SAFE, as a parent and a public servant I am sure you agree with this, that is why I am asking for all of us to work together to have SRO Officers available in every school district in Huntington and Suffolk County. Thank you for your prompt assistance with this matter, it is greatly appreciated. Please do not hesitate to contact my office at 631 351 3174 to discuss this matter further.
Councilman Eugene Cook
Huntington Town Council Office