Armed officers patrol schools in Washington Twp., N.J.

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A school district in Washington Township, New Jersey is trying a new way to keep students safe by having armed security officers roaming the hallways. (WPVI)

A school district in Washington Township, New Jersey is trying a new way to keep students safe by having armed security officers roaming the hallways.

It's a controversial idea, but one that may trigger new legislation in the Garden State.

Vince Fulginiti is a retired police officer with 25 years of experience. After retiring in 2012 he's back on the beat, now patrolling the halls of Washington Township's eleven school buildings as a special law enforcement officer, and made a stop at Birches Elementary School in Turnersville on Friday.

School Superintendent Joseph Bollendorf explains, "God forbid this school or any school that has police presence becomes victim of some of these tragedies we've seen over the years. We are gonna have a quick and immediate response."

The school district and the town are splitting the cost of two new special officers who are armed, paid hourly and receive no benefits. They join Patrolman Tom DiTullio, a regular police officer who's assigned to Washington Township High School.

Ptl. DiTullio tells us, "Whether it's an angry parent or somebody who's here for the most horrible intentions, I'm literally seconds and steps away."

Using retired police officers in schools became more common after the Sandyhook Elementary School shootings in 2012.

Washington Twp. Mayor Barbara Wallace says, "These officers went to this school. They grew up here. This is meaningful. These kids relate."

Bayley Hart is a student, and says, "It's definitely scary hearing about these things that happen at different schools all around the country. I mean it could happen anywhere, so just being able to know we have police here and security around at all times, it just helps everyone feel secure."

Fulginiti says, "In the back of your mind it's always the security problem. You just want to make sure everything is safe in here. I check all the doors, walk around inside and outside the perimeters."

There's a bill being considered in the legislature right now to create a new category of police in New Jersey specifically for schools called a class 3 officer. They would be armed, retired cops under 65 who would be limited to working on school grounds during the school day.

Washington Twp. Police Capt. Dennis Sims says, "It makes sense because there's a large pool of qualified retired police officers out there who still live and spend a lot of time in the community."

What will happen to the proposal to create class 3 school officers is unclear. But what is clear is that having experienced cops who know the town and the people here makes everyone feel a bit more secure.

Related Topics:
n.j. newspoliceschool safetyWashington Township (Gloucester County)
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