HAVERHILL — Mayor James Fiorentini has added two more officers to the police budget –- a move he said allowed police to immediately deploy a second resource officer, or SRO, at the high school.
Police Chief Robert Pistone said that in addition to a new SRO for the high school, he will be able to reassign a second officer to the department’s new psychological counseling team.
“We’ve always had a school resource officer at the high school as long as I can remember but given some of the issues that have taken place at the beginning of this year we believe, and the mayor agreed, that it’s a good time to add a second SRO,” Pistone said. “The mayor saw the value of adding these additional positions and assigning another SRO to the high school and we are very appreciative.”
Fiorentini visited the high school last week along with Pistone and Assistant Superintendent Michael Pfifferling to discuss school safety with new SRO Christian Guzman and Principal Jason Meland.
The high school’s current SRO, William Mears, also teaches a criminal justice class and attends many after-school events and activities, Pistone said.
“The school superintendent and I are very aware that parents are very concerned about some of the recent incidents at the high school, and I am pleased to see the school department taking swift action to add another SRO as well as other changes to address the situation,” Fiorentini said.
Fights were reported to have broken out recently at the high school, including one on Sept. 21 in the hallways that involved a number of students and another on Sept. 24 that involved students waiting for the bus at the end of the school day.
Pistone said part of the decision to add the second SRO is that he identified Guzman as a perfect candidate for the job and that he currently coaches wrestling in a neighboring public school district and works at local youth camps in summertime.
“Officer Guzman loves working with kids, and he knows a lot of them already,” Pistone said.
“We are excited to welcome Officer Guzman,” School Superintendent Dr. Margaret Marotta said. “He is bilingual, bicultural and committed to our young people. It does not seem like there could be a better choice and I thank the mayor for his quick attention to the safety of our students and staff.”
The second new police position approved by the mayor will work in tandem with mental health clinicians who, under a new program starting this year, will be accompanying officers on service calls involving people under high stress.
Pistone noted the department is in the process of replacing four officers who recently retired, but said it can take up to year for a new hire to be trained and hit the street.
The additional positions bring the Haverhill department’s full complement of budgeted officers to 112 – the most in city history, the mayor said.