Need for cops in schools?
EAGLE – Jerry Santoro admitted he was suspicious when he first learned he would be getting a school resource officer. “I had reservations in the beginning,” said Santoro, principal of Eagle Valley Middle School. “I worried that the community would think, ‘Why do they need a police officer at school?'”While some, like Santoro, were weary at first, most educators sing the praises of school resource officers after having one in their schools. “After the initial alarm, the preventative nature of that position proved to us to be a tremendous resource,” Santoro said. “He was a fixture here.”Far from just enforcing the law, police officers lend their expertise in classes and allow children to feel comfortable around cops, Santoro said. “The officer knows the kids and vice versa, and they began to see him as a person rather than a police officer,” Santoro said. Eagle Valley Middle’s school resource officer was made possible by a grant that paid Officer Paul Ramsey for three years of service in the school. The grant to fund school resource officers was part of the Public Safety Partnership and Community Policing Act of 1994, enacted by former president Bill Clinton. The act aimed to increase face time between cops and members of the community, including children, and also to train officers in problem-solving skills.When the grant ran out, Ramsey went away, but Santoro said he’d love to have another “SRO,” as school resource officers are called.”Of course, it needs to be the right person,” Santoro said. “They need to be able to blend with the age group. There needs to be a good relationship between the officer, administrators and teachers. “And the school resource officer needs to understand the difference between being an SRO and a police officer. It’s important to know the boundaries.”The same grant that put Ramsey in Eagle Valley Middle placed Avon officer Dave Wineman in Avon Elementary. Wineman created controversy last month when he handcuffed a 10-year-old boy and drove him home after the boy got into a scuffle on the playground. The town of Avon had secured a grant of $125,000 to be used for a school resource officer over three years. As Avon’s only public school, Avon Elementary was the beneficiary of the officer. “It’s unfortunate that this officer was acting independently,” said Eagle County Schools Superintendent John Brendza. The town of Avon has consistently declined to comment on the case. Wineman was only at Avon Elementary from Jan. 3 to Feb. 17. With much of the grant left over , Brendza said the department should wait to install another school resource officer at Avon Elementary. Avon Elementary administrators did not return multiple phone calls to say if they want another school resource officer. Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Vail, Colorado