School Resource Officers
Deputies began working in La Plata County Schools twenty five years ago. During those early years, The La Plata County Sheriff’s Office placed Deputies in the Schools as DARE Officers. The DARE Officers often wore many hats while they were in their assigned buildings teaching the curriculum. When there were law enforcement needs, the DARE Officers would step in and take the appropriate action. The Officers helped teachers, administrators and counselors with students that needed counseling and in some cases a strong role model. The limitations of the program initially were when the DARE curriculum was completed, the officers would not be a presence in the buildings any longer. There was also limited involvement in the high schools other than officers working as part time security.
The department made a shift from the DARE Program in favor of a home-grown program that allows for greater flexibility based on the needs of the community. Topics such as school safety, mental health and digital citizenship are included in classroom visits by the SRO's.
As the needs of the community changed and the size of the school district increased, a School Resource Officer unit was developed in 2001. The program was established as a cooperative effort by the schools and the Sheriff’s Office after a grant was awarded to the department by the US Department of Justice. This program allowed departments to assign officers full time to the high school as full time SRO. This gave the high school officers that were SRO's trained in the Triad concepts of school resource policing. The SRO Triad essentially means that the officer wears 3 distinct “hats” that describe their daily responsibilities. The 3 components of the Triad are Teacher, Counselor, and Law Enforcement Officer.
Each SRO serves in some capacity in each of these roles. Flexibility and the ability to handle a wide range of incidents is extremely important to the effective SRO.
The La Plata County Sheriff’s Office currently has 2 Deputies assigned to the School Resource Officer Unit. Our school district serves students in 6 buildings that include 1 high school and 1 middle school and 4 elementary. The SRO Sergeant is available to support the SRO at all levels.
We are very fortunate to have a strong, productive relationship with the faculty and staff at all of our schools. The Durango 9-R School District is now educating a little over 4,000 students and the responsibility of making the educational environment a safe place is our number one priority. The core responsibility of all of the officers is to provide for the safety of students and staff at all 9-R Schools. We work closely with school administration on a variety of criminal and non-criminal safety and security concerns. SRO's advise school administration on appropriate security and emergency preparedness for responses to topics like threats of violence. SRO are certified instructors in the ALiCE Active Shooter response for schools and train students and staff the wide variety of response options available in active shooter situations.
In addition to classroom visitation, the SRO represent a heavy involvement in the district safe school projects. SRO are involved in many other school and community programs as well. These programs include the hugely successful Safety Town, Eddie Eagle GunSafe program and Bike Rodeos. The La Plata County Sheriff’s Office is working to implement an Explorer Post program in the near future.
The ultimate goal is for SRO to be heavily involved in the school community to serve as officers, counselors, teachers, coaches and role models. We serve as a resource to the teachers, administrators and staff of all 9-R schools. It is our goal to constantly improve what we do and strive for excellence in keeping our kids safe and providing a high level of service to our school and the community as well.