School Resource Officers: A Different Kind Of Policing
Learn more about what the Safe Schools/Healthy Students initiative is doing for APS students.
June 19, 2012
Acting Sergeant Ginger Walker of the Albuquerque Public Schools Police spent 20 years as a Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department officer. She is now finishing her first year as a school resource officer (SRO) at Eldorado High School. It has been a big change from her previous work. "It's totally different policing. It's been very enlightening for me and very enjoyable," she says.
Walker is part of the school community. She attends games and has gotten to know the students and staff. "There is a real need for police officers in the schools. I didn't know how much of a need until I started working here," says Walker. A critical part of her job is coming up with creative ways to help students that get into trouble. Arrest is not always the right way to go. She works to connect students with counselors and find alternatives to them entering the criminal justice system.
More information on Safe Schools/Healthy Students is available at its website:
As a first-year SRO, Walker attended a 5-day basic SRO training course funded by the Albuquerque Safe Schools/Healthy Students initiative. The grant also funded advanced training for school officers. SRO training focuses on ways to interact with students, problem-solving skills, how to be a mentor and how to work with the school community. "These make you an effective person on campus. Go out and talk to kids or play ball with them and do some things to build rapport," says Lieutenant Allan Rider, the head of APS Police.
SROs within APS come from the APS Police, Albuquerque Police Department and the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department. Many of them have 20 years of experience in policing. "The SRO training helps them change their mindset a bit. They are doing something different now. These are kids who need guidance more than arrest," says Rider.
The recent advanced SRO training class included a major project where a group of SROs visited a school, assessed the security of the campus and came up with ways to improve it. Interaction and sharing between SROs was an important part of the training. "The biggest thing is they got to talk about stuff that is going on at their school and bounce those ideas off some of the other officers in the class," says Rider. "It gave them more techniques and tactics for how to work with the students"
Walker also works with two APD SROs at Eldorado. She is particularly pleased with the way the SROs, administrators and teachers support each other. "It's a great working relationship and I wish all schools could do what we do," she says. Walker feels like she has been welcomed into the school family by both the staff and students. As an SRO, her priority is safety on campus, but her goals reach even beyond that. "We're here to keep them safe, but the bottom line is for them to get an education," she says.