Summit School District and sheriff hoping to assign second cop to schools
The Summit School District and Summit County Sheriff’s Office are hoping to install a second deputy as school resource officer (SRO) that would be stationed at Summit Middle School if county commissioners approve a current draft of the 2017 budget.
Two SROs used to be the norm in Summit County, but the economic downturn pinched the budget of the school district, which splits the cost of the program with the sheriff’s office. In 2007, the county was reduced to one SRO that split time between schools and from 2010 to 2014 there were no deputies assigned to them.
“The new sheriff is very supportive of the program, and he’s a big part of how we’ll be getting a second deputy. He argued the case very well,” said Wanda Wilkerson, the current SRO.
She currently spends two days a week at the middle school and three at Summit High, where she also teaches a highly popular criminal justice class. The course, through collaboration with Colorado Mountain College, provides college credit and teaches kids the ins and out of the legal system and their rights under the Constitution.
The class was introduced as a pilot program this semester, and Summit High will continue it next semester due to its enthusiastic reception from students. Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons made an appearance at the class to give students some career pointers.
“It was great. We talked about law enforcement, 27 years being on the job, figuring out where they’re at and where they’re going,” he said. “There were kids thinking about being lawyers, cops, forensic scientists, all sorts of things.”
School officials are thrilled at the possibility of another SRO.
“We are extremely excited to add not only to the SRO’s presence for the safety and security of all our Summit County students but also excited for the SRO to be able to be more proactive in education,” said Summit High principal Drew Adkins.
“Our return to previous service would match up with increased enrollment,” said Travis Avery, the emergency response coordinator for the school district. “Instead of the department kind of spread thin between campuses, we’ll have two dedicated officers. It’s certainly something we’ve been talking about in the interim years with no SROs.”
Wilkerson, who was an SRO before the budget cuts put her back on regular patrol for a time, said she’s looking forward to having more time to plan her classes after another deputy comes in and lightens the load on day-to-day responsibilities across the district’s nine schools. But walking the halls and interacting with students is still one of Wilkerson’s favorite part of the job.
“You can walk 10 miles in a day — it’s not unusual,” she said. “Getting to know the kids, hanging out with them at lunch, making sure they’re safe.”
For the most part, they do stay safe — except when they manage to sneak into the buildings after hours. (That’s one part of why Wilkerson regularly makes the rounds to ensure doors aren’t propped open).
“The crazy stuff these kids do… a couple of times kids have gotten into the building when it’s closed and made trouble,” Wilkerson said. “But they’re real good kids. Not like in a big city.”
Overall, Wilkerson said, it’s good for the community to have cops feel approachable, and having an active, supportive presence on campus. That way, they might be less reluctant to reach out law enforcement in times of need.
“An SRO is not just about the badge and the black and white car in front of the school,” said principal Adkins. “It’s also about the relationships with students and building that trust.”
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