Police get OK to keep rifles in Brunswick schools

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Board also opposes LePage budget proposals

BRUNSWICK — The School Board voted 7-1 Wednesday night to allow the high school and junior high school resource officers to store their military-style semi-automatic rifles in their school offices.

The board also unanimously approved a resolution opposing Gov. Paul LePage’s proposals to shift teacher retirement costs to local school departments and fill the state budget gap with revenue originally intended for public schools.

Before the board voted to allow storage of rifles at the two schools, the resource officers, Police Department detectives Mike Andreotti and Aaron Bailey, explained their proposal.

Andreotti said he and Bailey currently have small, locked storage cabinets in their offices for their pistol sidearms, but they also keep their own rifles in their police cruisers in the school parking lots.

“It sort of dawned on us that those rifles are in the trunk of our cruisers sitting in the parking lots of the school – no close proximity to where we actually need them,” Andreotti said. “So what we’re proposing tonight is to increase or change the weapon storage in our office to include our rifles.”

Lt. Michael Moody confirmed Thursday that the patrol rifle stored in every officers’ vehicle is the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

Andreotti cited the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, among other recent events, as the reason for the proposal.

“Unfortunately, I need to talk about the sort of the recent events that have happened around the country,” he said, “and as much as we don’t all want to think about that, we need to prepare for those things. And as much as we hope that those things never happen, those of us in the Police Department need to be prepared.”

Andreotti said the rifles will give the resource officers tactical advantage in case of a deadly force situation, especially because of the rifle’s long-range capability. He said the officers will not carry them through the halls and keep them stored  securely in their offices.

School Board member Brenda Clough voted against the proposal. Board Chairman Jim Grant was not present at Wednesday’s meeting.

“I support school safety, but I’m ambivalent about bringing more weapons for storage into the school building,” Clough said.

Andreotti said it is highly unlikely anyone else could get their hands on the officer’s weapons. He also said that schools with resource officers have fewer violent crimes.

Earlier in the meeting, board member Rich Ellis said the Facilities Committee will begin reviewing security standards for all Brunswick schools over the next few months.

After the passing the rifle storage rule, the board voted unanimously to oppose Gov. Paul LePage’s biennial budget proposals, which would shift teacher retirement costs to local school districts and use casino funds, originally meant for local schools, to fill the state budget gap.

“At a time when public school funding has been cut, coupled with an unbalanced attack on education, these proposals continue to abandon a longstanding promise to the public employees and citizens of Maine,” the board said in its resolve.

Copies of the resolution will be sent to state Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, and Reps. Matthea Daughtry, D-Brunswick, Charles Priest, D-Brunswick, and Peter Kent, D-Woolwich.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.