RAMAPO, N.Y. -- Ramapo police and the local PTA have made up after the parents group stopped the chief and a lieutenant from speaking at a breakfast with the state education commissioner because they were carrying their service weapons.
The Central Hudson Region Parent Teacher Association (PTA) apologized after police called out the association for the Saturday morning incident.
NYS PTA Executive Director Kyle Belokopitsky and PTA President Gracemarie Rozea called the incident “absolutely not acceptable, not PTA policy, and contrary to our instructions to our regions.”
“Please accept our humble apology [and] know that this will be handled with the seriousness it deserves,” the pair wrote in a letter to the department, adding that PTA members “welcome police officers to attend any of our events.”
Police Chief Brad Weidel, in turn, said he looked forward to speaking with them about the matter as soon as possible. He also pledged to let the public know “how the meeting turns out.”
It began after the chief spotted an ad for a “legislation/education” breakfast, hosted by the PTA, featuring state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.
The event would be an “opportunity to have a direct conversation about our children’s education and safety with [the New York State] Education leadership and legislators,” according to a post on the PTA’s Facebook page.
Weidel and a lieutenant who heads school-based policing in town registered for the event and paid $50 at the door, police said in a Facebook post.
When they arrived, they said, they were told by a teacher that armed police officers were prohibited because it would make people uncomfortable at an educational event.
The chief “was taken back by what he was told and made it clear that RPD would not disarm to attend this event,” his department wrote in the post.
He eventually was told that they’d be allowed in – but prohibited from speaking, the post read.
“[I]t was obvious that RPD was not welcome at the event,” it continued. “Five minutes after paying, we simply asked for our registration fee back, and the moderator would not refund it.”
So they left.
"RPD is extremely disappointed how we were treated as police officers attending a forum expected to include issues relating to student safety,” the department wrote. “We expect that our individual local PTAs do not feel the same way about us and will denounce what occurred.
“We want to be very clear to our community: The Ramapo Police Department is committed to the safety of your children in school. We will not let this incident dissuade us from forging forward in every possible way to enhance the safety of your children.
“RPD has spent the last 30 years working to keep our schools safe,” the post added. “From our Adopt-a-Cop program. D.A.R.E, Youth Academy, Youth Court, Intern Program and School Resource Officers, RPD has demonstrated our commitment to the children of the Town of Ramapo.”
The ddepartment also thanked the Ramapo Town Board, East Ramapo Central School District and Suffern Central School District “for their unwavering support of our agency in this regard.”
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