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Longmont City Council approves School Resource Officers program
Daily Times-Call - 3/3/2021
Mar. 3—Longmont City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the St. Vrain Valley School District for assigning police School Resource Officers to high schools and middle schools in Longmont during the 2020-21 school year.
Under the written agreement, the school district will pay the city a total of $928,676 as its portion of the costs of the SRO program officers' salaries, including two officers each for Longmont, Silver Creek and Skyline high schools and one SRO each for Longs Peak Middle School, Westview Middle School, Timberline K-8 School, Trail Ridge Middle School, Old Columbine/Sunset Middle School and Altona Middle School.
The agreement does not detail what the city-funded portion share of those police SROs expenses are.
Longmont City Council originally was scheduled to act on the agreement with the school district on Feb. 9 but postponed consideration to get more information from the city's Department of Public Safety about how officers are selected and trained for the SRO unit, the training they undergo, as well as information from the school district officials about the program.
On Tuesday night, Council heard reports from Sgt. John Garcia, head of Longmont police's SRO program, from Christina Pacheco Sims, manager of Longmont"s Children Youth and Families unit in the Community Services Department and Municipal Court Chief Probation Officer Tara Johnson, as well as from St. Vrain Valley Schools Superintendent Don Haddad.
Garcia said the SRO unit and school district have "shared values of what we want for our schools and the community."
He told the Council that "we are not perfect, by any means," but "we are trying to improve constantly" through the Longmont city staff's and the SRO unit's meetings with the school district. Also, he said, the program is improving through its unit's and its officers' relationships with the district as well as the staffs and students in the schools to which those officers are assigned.
Garcia said that in the process of selecting officers for the SRO program, "I lean heavily on what the school wants."
Haddad said the SRO program, like the district's other policies and programs, are intended to make sure "that every one of our children is treated with the utmost respect" and those students and their safety and security "is paramount."
Garcia said the first priority in the Longmont police SRO program's set of mission statements is to "provide safe learning environments in our schools."
Other priorities, he said, include providing resources to schools, their staffs, and parents as well as to foster "a positive relationship with our youth."
Garcia said traditional law enforcement activities are something "where we spend the least amount of our time," and he, Sims and Johnson described restorative justice and diversion programs that are used to avoid placing youthful offenders in the criminal justice system.
Council members also heard Silver Creek High School SRO Staci Stallings and Longs Peak Middle School SRO Wayne Rafferty describe their work in those positions.
Rafferty emphasized that "our law enforcement position is really on the back burner for an SRO." He said the officers are a resource for students and their parents.
"It really is like a second career," Garcia said, especially with the SROs' counseling and mentoring of students.
In a memo to Council for Tuesday night's discussion, city staff wrote that the SRO program "works to carefully select and specifically train a group of highly skilled community-oriented officers to work in collaboration with the St. Vrain Valley School District, other city departments and Restorative Justice. SRO training includes, but is not limited to, childhood trauma & adverse childhood experiences, working with students with disabilities, mental health issues in children, cultural diversity and implicit bias."
Staff wrote council that a review of data "supports the important role that the Longmont SRO program serves in supporting, mentoring and teaching students, so they can reach their fullest potential. In addition, the SRO program, Children, Youth and Families, Municipal Probation and City Prosecutor's Office work together to stop the 'school to prison pipeline' and promote public safety.
"For example, these entities collaborated to develop the REWiND (Rebuilding Expectations and Walking into New Directions) program. REWiND is a collaborative system whereby professionals provide the youth and family with a quick response. They assess youth needs in order to impact recidivism and address the root cause of youth's behavior that could ultimately result in involvement in the criminal justice system."
A video of Tuesday night's consideration of the intergovernmental agreement with the school district, including the staff presentations, can be viewed at tinyurl.com/x74e8h5w.
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