5 things to know about your school resource officer

2014-04-03T00:00:00Z 5 things to know about your school resource officerBy Alison Dorf For the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Officer Dan Horetski is one of seven school resource officers employed by the Oro Valley Police Department.

Since he began working at Canyon del Oro High School eight years ago, every day has been different, he said. Not only does he serve as a disciplinary figure, Horetski offers a safe resource for students should they need help or find themselves in danger.

Last week, the Arizona Daily Star caught up with Horetski to find out more about his role. Here’s what we found out.

1. They’re not just security guards.

Equipped with a .40 caliber Glock, handcuffs and a patrol car, a school resource officer is a police officer. Not only can the presence of school resource officers help deter outside threats to students and staff — all officers go through active shooter training — they can also cite and arrest students who have committed crimes on school grounds.

When it comes to investigating crimes involving students, they play a role in every step of the process, from first receiving a call to filing the paperwork. Such investigations not only include students on campus, but incidents involving students that happen outside school as well.

“If it deals with our kids, it’s not too far,” Horetski said.

2. They teach classes.

From distracted driving to cyberbullying, school resource officers are trained to teach courses relevant to students.

Forensics, offered by CDO, is a yearlong class that teaches students about DNA, fingerprinting, search warrants, search and seizure laws and more, Horetski said.

At the end of the course, school resource officers re-create a crime scene based on real events, and students must investigate, interview role-playing witnesses and form a conclusion.

“Everything that we would do as law enforcement going to a crime scene, they have to do,” Horetski said.

Horetski also teaches students how to make decisions about drug and alcohol use and the consequences of driving under the influence.

3. They’re changing the way schools deal with bullies.

“Bullying has changed dramatically,” Horetski said. “Kids can do it with their phones; they can do it during class. A lot of kids can text and do things with their phone while it’s still in their pocket.”

Students may feel braver bullying others behind the safety of a screen using social media sites, though ultimately they still have to come to class and face one another, he said. That can lead to more physical fights.

Along with speaking to students about bullying, school resource officers have to be online to know what is happening there, he said.

“I have a Twitter account, I have a Facebook account,” Horetski said.

“We have generated fake accounts in the past,” he said, so when he hears about cyberbullying he can “jump on and take a look.”

Although Horetski said it is relatively easy to add and follow students on social media, and students have also come into his office, logged into their accounts and shown him what was posted online.

4. They’re building a trusting relationship with students.

On days when they’re not scheduled to teach classes, the officers may spend their time around campus mingling with students between classes, Horetski said. Depending on the teacher, they may also randomly go into classes to spend time with students and learn what they are doing that day.

“The student needs to see us in a variety of different functions,” Horetski said, “not just the person who is going to arrest you, but we’re really here to help them succeed.”

Being able to frequently talk with students around campus has allowed them to build trust. Some students, Horetski said, have personally come to his office to report harassment or warn him about fights or other troublesome activity.

“We do a lot of prevention work and unfortunately it’s hard to measure prevention, but we do that just through building those relationships with the kids,” Horetski said.

5. There may not be enough of them.

Because of budget cuts, the Tucson Police Department and the Pima County Sheriff’s Department do not have any school resource officers. Oro Valley officials see it differently.

“I think that they’re invaluable,” said Oro Valley Police Lt. Kara Riley.

Oro Valley Police Chief Daniel Sharp said the real benefit of school resource officers shows when they help students make good decisions, or “we can assist them with a place to go if they’re being bullied, or we’re there as a resource to the parents, the schools and the neighborhoods to address concerns before they become real issues.”

Alison Dorf is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at starapprentice@azstarnet.com.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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