Middle school to gain officer | SteamboatToday.com

Middle school to gain officer

Sheriff's Office seeks funds to hire additional resource deputy

Zach Fridell

— It’s not that the students at Steamboat Springs Middle School are unruly. It’s not even that they need extra guidance.

The idea of having a resource officer at the school is just another way to connect with the students and provide them with an authority figure in the building, Routt County Undersheriff David Bustos said.

The Routt County Sheriff’s Office has included a budget item to hire a resource officer at the middle school, potentially for the 2009-10 school year.

Steamboat Springs police Officer Josh Carrell is a full-time resource officer at Steamboat Springs High School, but because the middle school is outside city limits, the officer for that building would come from the Sheriff’s Office.

“We like what (Carrell) does, and we think it’s good to have a (resource officer) in the middle school as a liaison between law enforcement and the kids,” Bustos said. “He would be an officer who would work with the children, answer any problems or questions they may have.”

The plan is preliminary at this point, he said, but it has been added into next year’s budget, which will be up for approval later this year. If the budget item is approved, the Sheriff’s Office would seek additional approval from the Steamboat Springs School Board before hiring a deputy for the position.

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“The biggest obstacle is obviously to have the right person in there,” Bustos said.

Middle school Principal Tim Bishop said he was in contact with the Sheriff’s Office earlier this year about the possibility of bringing an officer into the building, but neither he nor assistant principal Jerry Buelter were aware the item was added to the sheriff’s budget.

“We’ve requested it for years, but it’s not that we have many issues that would require officers,” Buelter said. “It’s probably more of a person you can count on and go to with problems.”

Buelter said the officer probably would not have to deal with many serious incidents. Instead, he said the presence of an officer in the building would build relationships and steer the students in the right direction, even if the officer is not directly involved.

“It’s one of those things that’s really hard to measure because you don’t know how many things they put down just by their presence, or how that might affect behavior,” he said. “It’s like a police officer driving along the street downtown. Just by being seen he slows people down.”

Buelter said the sheriff or a deputy is called out to the school any time police are needed, but because the officers are so spread out, it often takes a long time to get a response. He said there always has been an understanding that if there was a severe incident, the Steamboat Springs Police Department would immediately respond.

Middle school officials also occasionally request that Carrell visit their building to talk to students about their actions or the potential consequences, but Buelter said it would be valuable to have a deputy at the school for both serious and smaller offenses.

“Some students just don’t know the difference between a tease and maybe harassment or bullying,” Buelter said. “Just having the deputy to tell them the line between ‘just joking around’ would be helpful.”

– To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208

or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com