GOP’s Resource Officer Gambit Fails
State Senate Republicans tried — and failed — to pass an amendment last week that would have provided school resource officers in all state schools.
The amendment was made during marathon sessions before the close of the legislative session that dealt with hundreds of issues, namely a gun control package that was previously reported in The Post-Journal. Democrats rebuffed Republican efforts.
During debate of S.89/A.6716, which establishes the crime of making a threat of mass harm and aggravated threat of mass harm, Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, made a public pitch for school resource officers.
“But we have the opportunity to do something here, we can do it today, we can do it before we leave here and that is to mandate and fund a school resource officer in every school in New York state,” Borrello said. “You want to help our kids, you want to keep them safe? An armed school resource officer in every school — that’ll be a big step forward. But you won’t do that. You won’t do that because those radical defund the police advocates, I love the word advocates, they don’t like that. They don’t like having a trained officer in a school with a gun because even now, two years after the disaster of bail reform and the spikes in crimes that we have seen, they still believe law enforcement is the enemy. And they don’t want them in our schools protecting our children. So you’re not going to do that. And you could. You could do it easily. We have the money to do it. We could do it before you leave Albany, and you won’t do it because of politics.”
Sen. Todd Kaminsky, D-Rockville Centre and sponsor of S.89, said he supports having more school resource officers in schools. But, Kaminsky said, the end of the legislative session was a time to do something rather than let the session end with no new laws on the books.
“I want to step back from this bill to discuss the larger issue that we’re grappling with as a nation and as a state,” Kaminsky said. “Because this body is emblematic of the problems we’re having in Washington where each side is talking past each other. Of course I’m in favor of having more school resource officers. That’s important. But what about people being shot up in movie theaters and supermarkets and in the street and at a concert and God knows where. Locking down our schools might be one answer but it’s certainly not the only one and we continue to talk past each other. The idea of having a mandatory psychiatric evaluation is, of course, important but I was here sitting on that side when we continually disinevested in our state system, closed down homes and let people walk the street with no pants on in just their socks. It happened in my community all the time.”
S.89/A.6716 was one of several pieces of legislation signed into law Monday by Gov. Kathy Hochul. It had been introduced in 2017-18 and again in 2019-20. A person would be guilty of making a threat of mass harm by making a threat to commit physical injury or death at a school, place of worship, government building or any other place of assembly and if that threat causes a lockdown or evacuation. Making an aggravated threat of harm would include instances when someone makes a threat and then acts upon it. The Senate passed the legislation with Borrello voting against it. The Assembly passed the bill 146-3 with Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, and Assemblyman Joe Giglio, R-Gowanda, voting in favor.
“I do believe it doesn’t have enough teeth,” Borrello said. “What we’re trying to do here is we’re trying to protect innocent people from carnage and we want to know in advance when someone’s going to do something. But we’re not always going to have that opportunity and in fact we will likely not have the opportunity, unfortunately.”
Borrello did try to add amendments to the legislation requiring the offenses to be bail-eligible rather than subject to appearance tickets, to require those charged with making a threat of harm to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
“We need to have more teeth in this bill,” Borrello said. “That’s why this amendment is not only germaine but incredibly important to protecting the safety of our students.”