The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

August 23, 2013

Officials: School Resource Officers do help

(Continued)

Williamson said an effective SRO must have a genuine interest in working with youth and have an understanding of the school community.

"You don't need to have the same attitude that you would have if you were on patrol," she said.

Williamson said SROs and principals have a shared interest in maintaining a safe school environment. That's why Cosby said he is sold on the effectiveness of SROs. They are building relationships with students and teachers, and Cosby said, "It's a win-win for everybody."

Entrekin said while the presence of officers in schools is important, the issues behind violence also must be addressed. He said more mental health training is needed for teachers and law enforcement officers to help them recognize signs that can lead to violent incidents.

Every time there has been such an incident, law enforcement and school officials have learned something.

There was a SRO in the school at Colorado's Columbine High School in 1999. But at that time, officers were taught to set up a perimeter and wait for SWAT. Twelve students and a teacher were killed before the two gunmen killed themselves. It was one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, and it also changed the mindset of how law enforcement responds.

SROs, patrol officers and others who might respond immediately are now being taught basic tactical entry techniques in a school environment, according to Sgt. Ben Greene, an investigator at the Etowah County Sheriff's Office and a firearms instructor certified through the Department of Homeland Security.

"This is not SWAT training, but training basic tactical entry procedures to all officers," he said.

The training is the same for all officers and will be taught beginning Jan. 1 to officers attending any law enforcement academy.

Officers from all departments across Etowah County have been taught the procedures in the last several months. Greene said about 80 percent of the officers in the county already are trained, and the goal is to make that 100 percent.

"It works really well to address the immediate threat, to stop the shooting, so they all know what to do and do the same thing," Greene said.

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