While some cities and school districts wrestle with whether to have a police presence within schools, the town of Gilbert continues to support the Gilbert Police Department’s School Resource Officers maintaining a presence in schools.
In fact, the department even plans to add more School Resource Officers to the police department’s roster.
The Gilbert Town Council approved on Sept. 19 agreements to add two SROs to Payne Junior High and Perry High School in the Chandler Unified School District as well as Mesquite Junior High and Mesquite High School from Gilbert Public Schools under the Arizona Department of Education School Safety Grant.
The town of Gilbert has agreed to pay 50% of additional costs that are not accounted for by SSP. The total that is expected from the SSP is $265,384, which will cover salary and benefits for the SROs, according to town documents.
“Students and our kids are so important to this council,” Mayor Brigette Peterson said. “That is the reason why this council and our police department believe it is so important to have SROs in our schools.”
All SROs will be trained just as any other law enforcement officer in the police department, with additional training specific for a school setting, according to town documents.
The primary duties of SROs are to be role models to students and encourage good behavior while also understanding consequences of actions. It is an SRO’s job to be an approachable adult in a school setting in addition to maintaining a law enforcement role.
“We ensure the presence is there for kids going through difficult emotional issues and dealing with overwhelming emotional problems and an SRO is someone they can go to,” Gilbert Police Sgt. Ric Borom said.
There are plans to implement crisis prevention plans, crisis response plans, emergency kits, “silent witness” programs, and uniform procedures to assess threats and weapons within the schools, according to town documents from Police Chief Michael Soelberg.
None of these procedures or programs will be put in place without guidance and approval from the schools’ principals.
All SROs will closely communicate with the principal of the school to take law enforcement action, including precautions for unwanted guests, according to the documentWhen necessary SROs will conduct investigations on school property and make arrests when needed.
SROs have the opportunity to educate staff and students on law related education and can act as a consultant for the students.
Some of the examples of the information provided by the education section and SRO duties include drivers education, mock investigations, drug and alcohol education, and juvenile law and procedures.
“We had one the other day, an officer teaching in a classroom about the Fourth Amendment during a history class,” Borom said.
Officers are obligated to provide staff and students with at least 180 hours of law-related educationThese lessons may be conducted in the classroom, outside of class, activities, and discussions.