GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. Keeping your kids safe while they're in school is the number one priority of School Resource Officers who patrol the halls.
A new training course rolled out in 2014 is designed to get officers ready for any situation in schools, from suicide threats to gun violence.
Mesa County law enforcement is leading the way with this curriculum as officials say the School Resource officers have already gotten the extensive training now required.
Seeing an officer walking the halls of your high school might be intimidating, but Rocky Baldozier, the SRO at Grand Junction High School said he's created a tight bond with the students. "We all get along. There are times where I have to discipline them if they break the law, but they understand it's nothing personal," he said.
Before he started patrolling these hallways, the Grand Junction Police Department sent Baldozier to a 40 hour training course covering all the issues he might come up against, like cyberbullying, threats, harassment and drugs. Another topic is counseling students. "You have to have empathy. You have to have concern. You have to really show really you care and if you don't care in this line of work, you really have to find something else to do," he said.
The intensive training he went through is similar to the new Peace Officer Standards and Trainings Classes (or POST) recently announced by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers. The POST curriculum includes 12 hours on the roles and responsibilities of an SRO, 12 hours on the duties of mentoring, suicide prevention and bullying, and 20 hours of risk assessment and emergency planning, including single-officer responses to an active shooter. "We certainly will take advantage of that training as well as we're always looking for continuing education to help not only our SROs, but all of our officers," says GJPD Sgt. Dave Krouse.
The training was introduced after Suthers' office met with members of the Colorado Association of School Resource Officers. Although the training Baldozier went to wasn't a requirement at the time, but just a way to be better prepared, at least one member of each agency will now be required to attend the course. "By requiring officers to do that I think it's a great service to the school and community and safety to the kids," he said.
While our cameras were following Baldozier through the hallways at Grand Junction High School, it was easy to see the students felt comfortable telling him personal things about their lives. He gives credit to the training for helping him learn how to communicate on their level.