What does it take to become a school resource officer? Well, in addition to forty plus hours of training, it takes a special kind of police officer. School violence is driving the need for school resource officers across the country. Around a dozen officers from Herkimer County are working to take on that responsibility. National Association of School Resource Officers Instructor Ernie Whiteman trains SRO’s across the nation, and tells us it’s important to unify the country with consistent training because the roles they perform are often critical in preventing school violence.
"One of the things we’re talking about now is the relationships, the rapport you build with kids, and looking specifically to some school shooters. They had nobody they could turn to, and in some cases the SRO may be the only person that kids can talk to."
These officers first role is to protect the public, but Herkimer BOCES Coordinator of Safety Services's Adam Hutchinson explains how their new jobs are much more complex.
"They can be an informal mentor, or a counselor for the school there. They’re a link to the first responders as well as protecting the school. They can also go in and educate the students on different topics in the school, and they’re also a positive example of law enforcement in the school."
That positive example of law enforcement can not only prevent school violence, but keep spontaneous decisions from becoming a life-long mistake. Little Falls Police Chief Ronald Petrie talked about how the SRO's make all that possible.
"The youth have… they don’t have the abilities to cope as adults do, so if they snap or they respond in anger, and sometimes that anger is violence. If the officers can recognize that and stop the violence before it happens, then there is no violence, and therefore there is no…. it cuts down on the reports, it cuts down on any possible arrests, any kind of criminal activity or negative interaction with law enforcement, and hopefully it will be a positive end on all sides."