Little Falls Police Department, Herkimer BOCES host national training course for school resource officers
Aug. 29, 2019
National Association of School Resource Officers instructor Ernie Whiteman talks to a group of school resource officers – mostly from Herkimer County – on Monday, Aug. 26, the first day of a week-long training. The NASRO training was organized by the Little Falls Police Department and Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Health and Safety Service and is taking place at the Herkimer BOCES Wiliiam E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer.
Fifteen school resource officers – including 11 working in Herkimer County – are undergoing training this week at Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES.
The SROs are learning what they need to know to be prepared for their jobs, said James Garcia, school safety advisor, of the Herkimer BOCES Health and Safety Service.
“Working for a school comes with its own specific challenges – different from a cop on the street,” Garcia said. “It’s a specific assignment with specific goals and specific challenges.”
National Association of School Resource Officers instructor Ernie Whiteman is conducting the 40-hour NASRO training program, which was requested by the Little Falls Police Department in coordination with the Herkimer BOCES Health and Safety Service.
Of the 15 participants, there are three from Little Falls, three from Frankfort, two from Dolgeville, three from the Herkimer County Sheriff’s Office, two from elsewhere in the state, one from Rhode Island and one from Connecticut.
It’s beneficial to host a training locally because otherwise the cost of travel and hotels becomes more expensive than the training itself, Little Falls Police Department Chief Ronald Petrie said.
“There’s been a need for SRO training in the area,” he said.
Participants have a variety of experience; many of them are new to their SRO jobs, Petrie said. They’re learning “exactly how they’re going to do the job in the schools” – such as understanding how to work with schools and students, respond to school incidents and become knowledgeable about emergency response planning, he said.
“So they can be prepared – more proactive than reactive,” Petrie said.
Whiteman, who traveled from the state of Oregon to conduct the week-long training, said SROs take different things away from the training depending on their level of experience. With many of the SROs in this training being newcomers to their positions, it’s especially valuable to them, he said.
“I’m helping prepare them for their new jobs,” he said. “I’m giving them an idea of some of the things they’re going to have to try and deal with and some of the big issues going on now around the country.”
Experienced SROs often pick up additional tips about the job through the training, Whiteman said, adding that he learns from each training as well – such as by seeing how different areas handle things differently. Whiteman said he takes what he learns in each class and updates his training for the next group.
Whenever any problems around the country arise with an SRO, it’s usually from over-stepping or using force when it isn’t warranted, so that’s part of the training, Whiteman said. NASRO has found that the SROs in those incidents haven’t gone through the course, he said.
“The benefits are training how to react and respond to issues you’re going to face,” he said.
Following this basic course, Petrie would like to offer the NASRO advanced course later this school year during a school break, he said.
“To me, having an SRO in the school is invaluable – building relationships between the students and the police department and between staff and the police department,” Petrie said. “It just creates that communication that is so important. If something happens, we’re right there to stop it.”
Garcia also talked about the value of having a trained police officer in school if anything happens and how the importance of an SRO goes beyond that.
“They’re going to build relationships with the students,” Garcia said. “They’re going to see them every day. The relationship-building is going to benefit the students, staff and districts overall.”