Resource officers go to school

By Jennifer W. Sanchez
The Salt Lake Tribune
08/12/2009 01:40:01 PM MDT

All that and investigating bike thefts.

Pleasant View Officer Corey Clark didn't realize the severity or variety of such issues happening in schools before attending this week's Utah School Resource Officer Association Training this week at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center.

Clark, who works in the small town near Ogden, just began his post two weeks ago at Weber High School. He signed up for the free, weeklong conference after a cop in another department recommended the conference.

"A lot of guys from our department think of [the school resource officer post] as a glorified babysitting job," Clark said. "They need to take these classes."

The event, which started last year, was an idea from association members to better inform officers about what's happening on campuses, said Michael Milne, deputy director of the Utah Council for Crime Prevention.

The council organizes the conference and pays for it using a state grant, but officers pay for their own lodging and food, he said. About 20 cops, including those from departments in American Fork, Moab and South Jordan, attended this week's event.

Milne said two of the conference's five days concerned legal issues because those are often the biggest challenges for school resource officers.

Other workshop topics included: teen suicide, teens and cutting, the teenage brain, sexting and teens and their music.

On Tuesday, Salt Lake City Police Det. Thomas Loevlie gave an hour-long presentation on "being aware and being prepared" to deal with gangs in schools and gang members as young as 7. He talked about why kids join gangs, the various gangs and what gang signs people should know about.

Loevlie told officers about the challenges of dealing with gang members, from kids threatening to call immigration agents on their undocumented parents to trying to work with kids' guardians who are in gangs. He also talked about the programs available to help officers and youth offenders.

Logan police officer Danny Bird works with six elementary schools and his department's gang unit. He said working with school policy, parents and laws is difficult, especially when dealing with myriad cases, including everything from bike theft to sex abuse.

"You have to juggle those three things all together," Bird said.

Bird and Clark said the conference's best part is networking with other officers and hearing other experiences. Clark said it also gave him ideas about being more "proactive" and initiating programs at his own school.

"It gives you a lot more to think about," Clark said. ...