School resource officers began preparing this week for the upcoming school year with a series of seminars. The 2 ½-week program is designed for officers to re-acclimate to the intricacies of policing in a school setting, Chief Alfonzo Williams said.
The result, he said, is a more specialized service provided by the department.
“It’s an opportunity for us to address issues and to prepare for the new year,” he said. “We make sure that the officers are ready and get the certification hours that they need to keep their arrest powers and ensure first aid and CPR is up to date.”
The department is made up of 37 sworn officers and six civilians, all who require training before the school year. A majority of them work an 11-month schedule, Williams said.
Officers typically take leave in mid-June and return in late July, which works to the department’s advantage because it can train the entire force at once.
Over the next couple of weeks, they’ll take classes covering a range of topics – from active shooter situations to policy changes and first aid.
On Tuesday, officers were briefed on identifying gang signs, transporting detainees and maintaining a professional appearance on social media.
During the first week of August, the department will conduct firearms recertification.
Classes can last as long as eight hours, but Wilson said it’s a sacrifice officers are willing to make.
“We’re in the service industry,” he said. “That being the case, it’s our job to ensure that we’re doing the best possible job for the people that, in essence, pay us.”
Wilson said the training helps officers sharpen their counseling skills. Often times, students turn to them for guidance and life advice.
“You have a little more time to dedicate to an individual student,” he said. “Sometimes they might not want to go the guidance counselor or they may not want to go to the principal. In many occasions, I find myself to be the confidant of many students.”
Lt. Henry Jackson, who has been with the department since 2004, said the training allows the department to offer the best possible service to the students, faculty and staff it serves.
“The product is a well-refined officer,” he said.