SENSE OF SAFETY: TV6 Investigates the roles of school resource officers

DURANT, Iowa (KWQC) -- A role gaining more and more importance these days: school resource officers.

(Cutout Photo: Elvert Barnes / CC BY-SA 2.0 / License Link / Photo: Pixabay / License Link )

With the discussion of mass shootings and school incidents happening often, TV6 Investigates decided to explore the role of these officers and the training they go through before stepping foot in the halls of schools.

Locally, more cities and towns are now training their veteran officers to work in their schools.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Durant Police Sergeant Michael Meier as he prepares for his new role as the school resource officer for the Durant Community School District.

In fact, he is the district's first ever school resource officer.

Sgt. Meier says he is prepared for this role, and what he looks forward to the most is interacting with the kids from kindergarten through 12th grade.

He says this role will be "a little more challenging" and that he is looking forward to the change.

Meier is a 27-year veteran police officer, and will continue in a supervisor role with the department as he embarks on this new journey.

Meier has undergone training with the National Association of School Resource Officers and he is also an A.L.I.C.E. active shooter training instructor himself.

He tells TV6, "I want that confidence in them to be able to walk up and tell me if there's a problem."

Meier says he hopes this goes for any concerns or problems students are having both in school, out of school, at home, or just in general, and that it will encourage them to be comfortable around officers whether it be him in the hall or officers in public.

Durant High School's principal, Joel Diederichs is thrilled to have Meier on board.

Diederichs says one of the important things to remember is these officers are trained in the front line, calling them "experts in this."

He says the schools and Durant Police Department have a fantastic working relationship and he looks forward to continuing their partnership as Meier begins his time with the schools.

Scott County Sheriff Tim Lane agrees with the need for having officers present in schools for safety-- or prevention as he says.

Lane tells TV6, "Unfortunately, some of the changes that have happened in our society have not been as positive as we would like, so the school resource officer is now a necessity in every school... that includes the bigger cities, inner cities, and also rural areas."

Principal Diederichs emphasized the importance of physically having a trained person present in the school, rather than depending on a security system for protection.

Diederichs says, "You can spend thousands and thousands of dollars on school security systems, but actually having a person here live that's connected to just moments away from getting the rest of the calvary-- so to speak-- here if needed. It's invaluable."

Keep in mind school resource officers go through additional training such as diversity and dealing with mental health problems.

Their roles extend far beyond the safety element in schools.

Mac Hardy, Director of Operations for the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), says they offer training nationwide for school resource officers.

Officers that train through NASRO, like Sgt. Meier, will go through a minimum 40 hours of specialized training before they will become school resource officers.

Hardy says these officers are invaluable and necessary in schools everywhere.

He says, "We can't do this alone. Law enforcement certainly cannot do this alone. When you have a team of law enforcement, schools, and the community working together, it makes a much safer environment."

Just weeks ago, Hardy says 645 officers trained in one given week with the organization. He is thrilled to see the numbers continuing to grow.

Hardy says the communication between law enforcement and the school communities is essential, "So many school shootings there's been linkage that somebody knew about it. If they didn't take it seriously and didn't say anything-- that communication between community and law enforcement is so vital."

Hardy hopes more schools will follow lead and recognize the importance of this extra layer of protection in schools nationwide.

Sheriff Tim Lane says this extra layer of protection is all about prevention.

He says, "If a person has bad intentions, they will know that when they make it to the school they will almost immediately be met with a school resource officer who has a superior weapon, has armor, and has training. This will not be something that will be easy for them."

Armed with defense and an understanding of the kids they serve, school resource officers, many law enforcement officials say, are a necessity nationwide.