Hillsdale School Resource Officer Mike Camporeale, School Security Officer Mike Niego, School Security Officer Chip Stalter, Hillsdale Police Captain Sean Smith

Sean Adams/WCBS 880

Stories From Main Street: Retired Police Officers Become Trusted Figures At Pascack Valley High School

March 19, 2018 - 7:00 am

HILLSDALE, N.J. (WCBS 880) -- Five weeks after the high school shooting that left 17 people dead in Parkland, Florida, communities across the country are still wrestling with the idea of how to make students safe in our schools.

In this week’s Stories from Main Street, WCBS 880’s Sean Adams visits Hillsdale, New Jersey, where the Pascack Valley School District has been employing retired police officers to help secure schools.

At Pascack Valley High School, the security guards certainly are not run-of-the-mill.

“I was the chief of police in Hillsdale,” said Chip Stalter.

“I’m a retired captain from Hillsdale,” said Mike Niego.

Together, Stalter and Niego have more than 60 years of law enforcement service. Now, they are out of retirement as Special Law Enforcement officers Class III – armed and on patrol in the school.

“We view ourselves as insurance policies for the worst, but you know, day-to-day activities are not of police officers even though we have police powers,” Stalter said. “We’re pseudo-guidance counselors; parents; problem solvers.”

Niego said the obvious benefit for him and for Stalter is their experience.

“We both have kids. We kind of know what it’s like to be around kids. We both went here. There’s even one or two teachers here from when we went here. We both worked in town, so we know a lot of people,” Niego said.

They provide more than just security.

“We wear a lot of hats,” Niego said. “One minute, you’re a priest. The next minute, you’re a counselor. The next minute you’re, you know, ‘So-and-so broke up with so-and-so.’”

Stalter believes their presence is greatly appreciated.

“We have a few students – and we’ve commented to each other about this – every day, when they leave the building, no matter which one they see, they thank us,” he said.

Stalter and Niego work hand-in-hand with school resource officer Mike Camporeale.

“Current Class III over there – he was the chief. He was the one who hired me,” Camporeale said. “So I learned a lot from him.”

Hillsdale police Capt. Sean Smith said without question, retired police officers have much to offer, and many still want to serve.

“I would love to expand it,” he said. “We have a middle school in town, and three additional elementary schools. That should always be looked at.”