Highlighting the function of School Resource Officers in the City’s schools.

Post Date:09/14/2016 12:20 PM

Today, The Charlotte Sun ran an article questioning the value of “school police”. No author of the article is listed, but it does state that the article originally ran in a paper in California. We can’t speak to what is going on in a state completely across the country, but we’d love to take the opportunity to speak about the amazing value the School Resource Officers have here in the City of Punta Gorda.

The Punta Gorda Police Department currently has three School Resource Officers assigned to the Community Services Unit, staffing an officer in Salle Jones Elementary, Punta Gorda Middle School, and Charlotte High School.  Charlotte High School’s campus is roughly 65 acres, with over 2,000 students currently enrolled. When factoring in the students from PGMS and Sallie Jones, our student population alone can make up to 25% of the entire city’s population during a typical school day.

A question raised in the article referenced the training a School Resource Officer receives. Our officers inside the schools are certified School Resource Officers, which means they have attended advanced education training pertaining to working in the school environment. This training also covers counseling skills and methods to cultivate relationships with students, parents, and teachers. In addition to the initial certification training, our School Resource Officers seek out additional certifications to instruct specific programs, and attend the annual conference of the Florida Association of School Resource Officers. At that annual conference they are afforded the opportunity to attend a spectrum of lectures and classes on current topics affecting their student populations.

pgsroThe article printed by the Sun Herald questions whether having police on campus leads to students being given criminal records for misbehavior that would have otherwise been handled by school administration. The local fact: Our School Resource Officers find that they are infrequently called upon to provide enforce criminal enforcement, and when they do it is at the request of school officials; meaning, a police officer would have been called to the school for enforcement measures anyway. Our school resource officers frequently serve as teachers of special programs; Corporal Tony Pribble teaches a 13 week Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) to approximately 400 7th grade students each year. This program provides classroom instruction not only on the dangers and consequences of gang activity, but more importantly focuses on acceptable behavior and social responsibilities of young adults. Officer Joe Angelini instructs a 10 week Drug Awareness and Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program to all 5th graders at Sallie Jones Elementary with the goal of reducing drug abuse and violence while learning to make safe and responsible decisions.  At the high school level, Officer Tiffany Viola teaches classes on distracted driving, a hot topic for new drivers.

A School Resource Officer’s daily activities are consistent with a typical patrol officer’s activities. They handle the same type of calls for service, from traffic related issues surrounding the school areas, to all other criminal and non-criminal activity reported by students or staff throughout the day.  These calls for service range from theft, burglaries, to the extreme spectrum of sexual assault types of cases.  The established trust between a resource officer and the student population is invaluable when investigating these reports. When not instructing or investigating reports, their day is spent counseling students and assisting their respective administration with maintaining day to day safety issues, such as developing response plans for active shooters or other emergencies.

The majority of these roles are not quantifiable because there is no measure to how many students are steered in the right direction by interaction with a positive role model. One can simply argue that any opportunity to have a positive impact in a child’s life cannot be overlooked. We are proud of the Punta Gorda Police Department School Resource Officers, because they seize these opportunities every day.