FAIRFIELD — The following is a statement from Fairfield Police Chief Christopher Lyddy regarding recent changes to the department’s School Safety Unit:
“The safety of our schools, including all students, staff and personnel, is something that this department takes as a paramount priority and we have highly skilled and trained officers that make up our School Safety Unit.
“It has come to my attention that there are some people who are upset about the recent reorganization of the School Safety Unit and I wanted to clarify the reasons why those changes were made and state that some of these measures are only temporary.
“Due to the abbreviated school schedules associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and hybrid and remote learning programs, the decision was made to temporarily move two School Resource Officers from the School Safety Unit to other units within the department. These two officers would have typically taught our School Health Assessment and Performance Evaluation (SHAPE) program, but due to the need for students to learn their core classroom requirements, the SHAPE program will not be taught to start the school year.
“Both of these measures are temporary, and we anticipate that we will be moving two officers back into the school unit and reinstating the SHAPE program once schools reopen again for full in-person learning.
“Additionally, Lt. Edward Weihe who was heading the School Safety Unit has been reassigned. Lt. Weihe has done an amazing job in the schools over the years and we commend him for his work. However, just like many of our supervisory staff, we seek to make sure that our officers are able to gain as much experience as possible in a variety of positions and roles within the department.
“As of right now, due to retirements and officers being out on leave, our department’s personnel is down about 10%. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, police academies have been shut down and we have been unable to bring on new officers during this time. The two former school officers, which are funded through the department’s budget, will be filling roles needed elsewhere in the department for the time being and we are currently seeking to hire additional officers and posted new positions this week.
“As is routine for our department every few years, we undergo a department-wide reorganization and restructure of our staff based on the number of retirements and staffing levels. Officers get promoted and supervisors, like Lt. Weihe, take on new roles and responsibilities. It is the goal of the Fairfield Police Department to have all of our officers gain as much knowledge and experience with different aspects of the policing profession as possible so our officers are well-rounded and knowledgeable about a wide variety of topics.
“It should be made abundantly clear that these decisions have been planned for well ahead of time and are in no way a knee-jerk reaction to the Police Accountability Bill.
“The Fairfield Police Department maintains a great relationship with the Fairfield Public Schools and I have been in contact with Superintendent Michael Cummings about these issues.
“I hope to have clarified why some of these decisions have been made and we wish everyone a safe and fun school year.”