At the beginning of the school year, a school resource officer, 20-year veteran officer Preston Rea, was designated to patrol Ignacio schools.
Ignacio Police Chief Kirk Phillips said there hasn’t been an SRO in the district for more than two decades. Rea, who used to work as an SRO in Durango, is paid by the district and came out of retirement to take the position.
“This day and age we live in, the school district took a more serious look at safety,” Phillips said, adding that police were considering the idea before the 2017 Aztec shooting, but the incident in Ignacio’s backyard certainly encouraged the idea.
The mission of the SRO program is the creation of a safe and secure learning environment for students, provision of a safe working environment for staff, and the prevention and reduction of school-related violence and offenses committed by juveniles and adults on school properties.
“Basically, this person is a police officer first and foremost,” Phillips said.
Rea is armed and wears a uniform and drives a marked vehicle.
“Having that visible presence is a major deterrent,” Phillips said.
Other purposes of the SRO go beyond safety. Phillips said they want to create a positive relationship between the students and police. For instance, if a social studies class has a unit relating to law, Rea is invited to help in the classroom. Phillips said they are also working on putting together self-defense and defensive driving classes for students. They are also involved in emergency training, including active shooter training, which took place at the beginning of the year.
“I think it’s paramount to integrate (active shooter) training with students and staff and community members,” Phillips said.
Rea has responded to a couple fights, student-related traffic calls such as speeding and reckless driving on school properties, and other minor incidents. He splits his time between the Ignacio schools.
Phillips said there are plans to possibly add a second SRO by the start of next school year, although the details haven’t been nailed down just yet. As an additional safety measure, the district is adding a protective coating to windows at Ignacio schools. At a Feb. 25 Town Board meeting, Phillips said the coating will strengthen the glass, although it isn’t bulletproof. The coating is funded with an $82,000 safety grant the school board received.