School resource officers ahead of the game

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When the community hears about school shootings, such as the tragic incident in Roswell last month when two youngsters were shot by a fellow classmate, it's usually a school resource officer who is first to respond to the scene.

Those first responders are critical on school campuses, not only to respond to dangerous situations but also on a daily basis as a resource to students, teachers and parents.

The Los Lunas Police Department is hosting a School Resource Officer training this week for 11 in-state and out-of-state officers interested in gaining enhanced knowledge in the field.

LLPD Lt. Naithan Gurule said three retired officers, Joe Griego, Robert Ferreyra and Alfred Torres, who are current SROs in Los Lunas Schools, are taking advantage of the 40-hour program. Officer Micah Bogue is also enrolled in the class.

"Many of our schools in the district are within the village limits," Gurule said of the importance of the training. "Our school resource officers are with our children on a daily basis and the knowledge that they'll get from this class will enhance the information that they already know."

The course, which is being provided by the National Association of School Resource Officers, is emphasizing three main areas of instruction, including functioning as a police officer in the school setting, working as a resource and problem solver and developing teaching skills.

The class, which is being taught by Patrick Fitzgerald, a retired commander with the Park Forest Police Department, a suburb of Chicago, is also teaching officers how to form a lasting relationship with schools.

Gurule says while the retired officers already bring a lot of law enforcement knowledge back to their positions as school resource officers, these types of trainings provide everyone with a better perspective of their duties and responsibilities.

"They're going over everything from administrative correspondence and conflict resolution to speaking to individual students in elementary schools to high school and active shooter responses," Gurule said of the lecture-based training. "They are given information about how to interact with the kids as well as bring information back to the law enforcement agencies as well."

Gurule said it's extremely important to have law enforcement in schools, saying school resource officers make a positive impact on students as well as staff.

"We are able to interact with them on a personal basis and ensure their safety," Gurule said.

Officer John Valdez, the training officer for the LLPD, said national trainings are usually held out-of-state, but they were fortunate to be able to host this 40-hour program in the village. Officers from Los Alamos, Colorado and California also joined the local officers in the training.

"It's a benefit to the village and to the department to have the training here because everyone from out-of-state is coming here, staying in our hotels and eating at our restaurants," Valdez said. "They're all bringing revenue to our village."

LLPD hosts training programs regularly, but Valdez said he's in the process of scheduling at least one advanced training per month.

"We host (Department of Public Safety) required trainings regularly, but these advanced trainings will ensure that we are offering quality programs to our officers as well as other officers around the state and the nation," Valdez said.


-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.