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More than just a cop

Farmington was the first area public school district to utilize school resource officers. Pictured, left to right, is Sgt. Sam Weekley, Officer Wendy Helton and Officer Jeff Vandiver. 

With school shootings, bullying, sexting and juvenile crime becoming more prevalent in society, schools have turned to having more resource officers on staff.

What is a school resource officer’s purpose? Are they there simply to police the school or do they have a much wider range of job duties? How should students feel about their resource officers?

The first school in the county to utilize a school resource officer was the Farmington School District. Sgt. Sam Weekley, Farmington Police, has been working in the Farmington School District since 1997 and is in his 21st year of SRO duties. Farmington’s resource officers are employed by Farmington Police Department, however, the district reimburses a portion of the cost.  

Farmington also has two additional officers, one who works the intermediate and middle school buildings, Officer Wendy Helton; and Officer Jeff Vandiver who concentrates on the kindergarten center, Washington-Franklin Elementary and Jefferson Elementary.

Weekley said SROs are required to have a mandatory one-week training in Jefferson City. In addition, they must have graduated from the police academy and also keep up on their P.O.S.T. Certification (Peace Officer Standards and Training).

“We police all criminal activity (in) all buildings, assist in abuse and neglect investigations, auto accidents on campus, traffic control, and work special events such as ballgames and dances,” said Weekley.

Weekley said that he and the other officers take care of intruder training, emergency plans, and teach students about the law, driving safety and drug use. 

“SROs are teachers, counselors, and law enforcement officers,” said Weekley.

Central School District in Park Hills also utilizes a resource officer. Officer Summer Bentley is currently in her seventh school year. Bentley is supplied to the district through the Park Hills Police Department. A second position is vacant. 

More than just a cop

Officer Summer Bentley takes care of law enforcement and training programs for Central R-3 Schools. 

Bentley said that a large part of her role is district safety procedures. She is currently working with other school officials to create a new Emergency Operations Plan. Bentley also teaches intruder safety and performs drills with staff and students, teaches classes on bullying, sexting, and drug use, and works social service-related cases.” 

Bentley also has had the mandatory SRO training and maintains her P.O.S.T. certification.

“A big part of my position in the district is working with the Critical Incident Team. This team has four people in each building who are CPR and first aid trained who can respond in the event of an emergency, which could range from an active shooter to a natural disaster such as a tornado or earthquake,” said Bentley.

North County School District has gotten on board with the SRO trend. The district, which has buildings in both Bonne Terre and Desloge, has two officers on staff who are commissioned by the county.

More than just a cop

Deputy Brian Whitfield (L) and Deputy Jamie Crump (R) are both in their first year of keeping student and teachers at safe in the North County School District.

Deputy Jamie Crump and Deputy Brian Whitfield are the two officers who work for the North County School District.

“We react to any legal issues on campus, teach several classes (covering topics such as) underage drinking and DWI, nicotine and vaping, and opioid addiction,” said Crump. “We are here for the students and sincerely care about them. Any student who has any issue, personal or school related, can come to us at any time.”

The Bismarck School District added a school resource officer for the 2018-2019 school year. Officer Scott LaHay is the resource officer for the Bismarck district. He began in August of 2018 and is an employee of the school.

LaHay said he carries a dual commission by the Bismarck Police Department and the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department. This is because a lot of the school district is outside the city limits.

More than just a cop

Officer Scott LaHay works to keep students and faculty safe at Bismarck Schools. 

“Daily basic operations consist of safety of the students and staff, public relations and educational programs,” said LaHay.

“I have not yet had the SRO training as I was hired right at the beginning of the school year and the courses are offered in the summer months (so the officer is not taken away from the school during session),” said LaHay.

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Matt McFarland is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616, or at mmcfarland@dailyjournalonline.com.

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