Lawmakers in St. Lawrence County made a practical move by centralizing a school resource officer program for local school districts.

Education authorities have requested assistance in having an officer based in their schools.

But school districts cannot hire their own police officers; this must be done by a law enforcement agency.

Cities and villages throughout Northern New York may struggle with being able to afford the expense of providing school resource officers for schools in their areas. St. Lawrence County, therefore, will offer them through the Sheriff’s Department. The Operations Committee of the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators passed a resolution three weeks ago calling for the creation of this program, and the full board approved the measure Monday.

“The county has received requests for SROs from some school districts ‘to ensure a safe environment conducive to enriched learning,’ the resolution reads. SROs, according to the resolution, will be a deputy sheriff of the county Sheriff’s Office who is assigned to work in collaboration with a particular school. The role of the SRO includes being a protector, enforcer, first responder, mentor and community liaison,” according to a story published Dec. 25 by the Watertown Daily Times. “[Sheriff Brooks Bigwarfe] said Hermon-Dekalb Central School and Edwards-Knox Central School expressed interest in the program. Potsdam Central School already has an SRO through the Potsdam Police Department. This program would establish an SRO program through the sheriff’s office rather than local police stations.

“[Bigwarfe] said the deputies would have to be trained specifically to be an SRO through the Municipal Police Training Council. There, Mr. Bigwarfe said, officers are trained in de-escalation tactics, dealing with students with disabilities, and other safety standards. He said the call for SROs does not reflect a rise in danger within schools,” the article reported. “Under the program, Mr. Bigwarfe said there would be one officer per school. That officer would be armed, he said, for their own protection as well as for the protection of anyone in the school. … Although Mr. Bigwarfe said the No. 1 reason for the SROs is the safety of everyone, he added that another component of their presence is to build a positive relationship with students. They also could be used for educational purposes, with officers giving talks on drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, internet safety and careers in law enforcement, among other safety topics.”

The presence of police officers in schools can have positive effects.

This provides a good measure of security in the event of a crisis.

We wish it wasn’t necessary to have armed law enforcement agents guarding students, faculty, staff members and administrators, but this is part of today’s reality.

But this program also offers the opportunity for school resource officers to develop beneficial relationships with the students. They may be experiencing problems that require the help of a police officer.

The county board will work now with local school districts to place school resource officers into educational facilities. This is a sound plan that will ensure added safety and provide members of these school communities with what they need.

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