Retired police chief touts importance of resource officers – Cedar City News
ST. GEORGE – As the new school year begins, hundreds of Washington County students begin classes. For many, the first staff member they meet may not be a teacher or administrator – it will likely be the school’s resource manager.
A School Resources Officer (SRO) is a sworn law enforcement officer who is assigned to a particular school on a long-term basis and plays a critical role in ensuring the physical security of a school building and whatever is inside. Although this is the first priority, their role on campus is varied and the scope of their functions often goes beyond safety and security.
These agents are often on the front line and can usually be seen welcoming students to school, counseling a student in crisis, or even mentoring a lost student. School resource officers are also excellent educators and role models who are well trained to work in an educational environment.
An effective ORS program is a collaborative effort between the district officer, administrators, students, and staff. Partnership is essential to maintain open communication, which also enables rapid response to threats.
The post, with its awesome sounding name, is an unusual hybrid of counselor, educator, and police officer, as opposed to an armed security presence or scaring children into behaving. On the contrary, they are a valued member of the administration that children turn to for advice, support and safety.
In St. George, there are 12 student resource officers assigned to a dozen schools scattered throughout the city. Making sure everything goes smoothly fell on Lt. Ivor Fuller, a supervisor of the St. George Police Department’s special enforcement division, which includes school resource officers and a bicycle patrol.
Fuller retired from the department this month, and Lt. Joseph Hartman, a veteran officer with a long career with the St. George Police Department, has been appointed to lead the SRO program and to coordinate and manage officers. of school resources allocated to schools in Saint George.
Fuller described the program and how officers are selected and trained in a recent interview with the St. George Police Department and also discussed the important role these officers play. First and foremost, he said the role of the student resources officer is to ensure the safety of young people, who he believes are the most valuable and vulnerable in the community.
âThe importance of protecting young people cannot be overstated,â he said, adding that they represent the future and help shape what a community will become.
To this end, it is essential to have an OAR present and available for these students, he said, so that they can have a direct impact on the lives of young people by leading by example.
Selecting the right officer for the job is the critical first step in terms of placement, he said, and any officer who wishes to serve as an SRO must first make this request in writing. From there, they are put on a waiting list. Once a position opens, the selected officer goes through a training program that will help them work effectively in a school environment which in many ways is very different from any other police assignment.
These school officers use this training and their law enforcement experience to train and educate staff and teachers, and also help develop safety plans. At the same time, they serve as a link between schools and outside organizations.
It all starts with a desire to serve as a school resource manager and everything else flows from there, Fuller said.
âThese officers want to be school resource officers and they are excited to work with students and make a difference,â he said.
Many of these officers also become mentors for youth in schools and develop positive relationships with students and their families. When they notice a student who appears to be at risk, they can guide them through the challenges and be the stable advocate for young people who live without structure or stability at home.
The positive relationships that are established and nurtured over time can also help change this teenager’s overall view of law enforcement, which can continue for the rest of his or her life. Fuller said these relationships can extend beyond the school’s campus and even influence the outcome if the student is to have any interaction with police outside of campus.
For example, he said, there was an incident several months ago in which officers responded to a call involving a discouraged and suicidal youth.
âThis young man was in crisis and was not threatening anyone else. Only themselves, âhe said.
It turned out that an officer who had worked at one of the schools the previous year responded and the two recognized each other. Since the ORS had established a relationship with the teenager, a level of trust was already established.
The officer was able to speak to the teenager on a more personal level, as someone who had shown caring and caring while working at the school, and that connection helped defuse the situation, Fuller said. Ultimately, the teenager was able to speak out about the crisis, which enabled officers to provide the young people with the help they needed to move forward.
The other advantage is that the agent can identify a need or a problem and then put the student in contact with essential resources, some of which may even be overlooked by young people.
âThese agents can also put the student in touch with additional resources that can help them,â Fuller said.
There are also security benefits of having an SRO working on campus. As studies have shown, not all security procedures in the world can replace the proactive information that an SRO can collect to stop attacks before they happen.
An ORS is assigned to a full-time school, made possible by the agreement between the Washington County School District and the various police departments where the district agrees to pay a portion of that officer’s salary.
Steve Dunham, district communications director, said it was money well spent.
âWe’re talking about keeping schools safe – and that’s the first thing we can do to keep our students safe in schools. “
Dunham went on to say that the positive impact of these officers on all students and for students coming from other areas where they may have formed a negative opinion of law enforcement is equally important. Ultimately, these officers “are the resource these kids can count on if they have any problems and need to talk to someone,” he added.
He said working with Fuller over the years has been exceptional and he’s been there whenever the district needs him for anything.
Fuller has been the supervisor of the SRO program for the past five years, and during that time he has grown closer to its officers, administrators, and many students.
When asked what he would miss the most about the job, Fuller said he would miss the relationships that have been established in the roughly 20 years he has been in the service, including the 11 years he has been in the service. ‘he spent patrolling a mountain bike and the last five years overseeing the ORS program.
He also said that he had formed important relationships with many students from the various middle and high schools while overseeing the program, as well as the friendships he made with educators and administrators at the school and university level. district.
Fuller said he looked forward to his much-needed family time and added that vacations were likely in his future – his very near future.
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