SWANTON POLICE DEPARTMENT
SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER PROGRAM
COMMITED TO SCHOOLS AT PEACE, EDUCATION, FUTURES AND EMPTY PRISON CELLS
SCHOOL YEAR 2017 – 2018
The Swanton Village Police Department’s School Resource Officer Program at Missisquoi Valley Union Middle School and High School was established in August 2009, and is currently entering its eighth year of operation. Since its establishment, the Program and the school's Office of Student Affairs have worked in partnership with other law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, social service providers and the community with great success. The result has been the creation of a calm welcoming educational environment founded in acceptance, tolerance and understanding. Today, disciplinary referrals are down by over two thirds. Criminal Arrests, along with administrative referrals for harassment and bullying are also at an all time low, while the school's football program continues to inspire and energize the entire school community with a spirit of harmony and inclusion that permeates the entire school.
However, the Program's overall success at MVU is directly attributable to the collaborative commitment of law enforcement and educators to a strategy of building strong healthy relationships with kids. Quite simply, the operational strategy of the Program translates into the early identification, detection and intervention in serious public safety issues at school and in the community. To date, there have been no deaths or serious injuries at MVU since the Program's inception.
The currently assigned SRO is a Certified Police Officer in the State of Vermont and an honorably retired Federal Agent with over 46 years of professional experience. He holds a Baccalaureate Degree with Honors in Criminal Justice from Northeastern University in Boston, and has also completed and graduated from the Vermont Police Academy in Pittsford, Vermont, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia, the Federal Bureau of Prisons Training Academy in Atlanta, Georgia and the Massachusetts Department of Corrections Training Academy in Framingham, Massachusetts, and is now in his 16th year as an Adjunct Instructor of Criminal Justice and his 10th year as a Certified New York Police Academy Instructor. As the department's police officer assigned to MVU, he also participates in continuing professional in-service training sponsored by the Vermont Police Academy and other agencies throughout the year.
The primary mission of the Program is to serve as the first responder in all critical incidents at MVU. The Program is fully supported in this mission by a staff of fifteen Swanton Police Officers and Officials of the MVU Administration, Office of the Principal and Office of Student Affairs, along with the Vermont State Police, Franklin County State's Attorney's Office and a network of area law enforcement agencies. Additionally, the Program is also completely interfaced with the Swanton Fire Department, Missisquoi Valley Rescue, Vermont Department of Children and Families,Northwest Counseling and Support Service's Mental Health Crisis Team and the Howard Center.
The Program also fully supports the work of the: Northwest Unit for Special Investigations, Vermont State Drug Task Force, St. Albans Police Department, Franklin County Sheriff's Department, Vermont Department of Corrections, Field Supervision Unit, Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Investigations.
PHILOSOPHY AND OPERATIONS:
The SRO is embedded in the school and fully subscribes to the time honored "beat cop" approach to kids and their issues, and maintains an open door policy in addressing the needs of the student community. The relationship between the SRO and the student community is close, harmonious and devoid of the customary protocols traditionally associated with cops and kids. Additionally, kids are also encouraged to access the SRO after hours in the event of a serious problem.
The Program's philosophy is simple. It acknowledges and accepts the fact that being a kid and inexperienced in the ways of a world gone completely mad can often times result in a periodic, or occasional lapse in judgment. Therefore, criminal justice proceedings in matters involving kids are invoked only when absolutely necessary. The program also subscribes to two adages with regard to being a kid, with age comes wisdom and that every kid in these times should be able to count at least one cop among his or her best friends.
Unfortunately however, most police encounters with kids usually involve some form of transgression. In these situations, patience, understanding and tolerance are the key to the Program's strategy. Many times, a second or even a third chance maybe necessary to guide a struggling kid to a new reality. While the approach may seem permissive, it should be remembered that adolescence is the only period in a kid's life when time is on our side. We know from our own experiences as kids that most kids will eventually transition successfully from adolescence to adulthood. Thus, a calm, non-judgmental approach with kids can often lead a kid to a critical re-thinking of his/her perception of the world, and this can be transformative. During the past seven and a half years, it has been the Program's experience at MVU that a sustained, patient approach with kids can result in positive behavioral changes that transcend adolescence, and significantly shift the odds in favor of a positive outcome.
The MVU Football Program has also served to bolster the Program, and the school's on-going efforts to expand its cultural reach, by bringing more kids out of the shadows and into the life of the school. However, more importantly, MVU Football has served to instill a sense of self esteem and confidence in countless kids to strive for excellence both on the football field, and in the classroom.
CLIMATE AND CULTURE:
The school is a microcosm of our larger society, complete with all of its successes, tragedies and dangers. Thus, no issue weighs more heavily on the program than the specter of gun violence and adolescent drug abuse. Unfortunately, the State of Vermont's School Gun Law is woefully out dated and almost completely inadequate to address the new threat of gun violence that confronts our schools today. Additionally, spiraling adolescent mental health issues (alcoholism, drug addiction, the use of heroin, opiate based pharmaceuticals, marijuana, self harm and suicide) continue to compound and complicate these challenges. Unfortunately, as mental health driven gun tragedies increase and controlled substance abuse rates sky rocket nationally and locally, resources for mental health and adolescent drug abuse treatment continue to be scarce, or overwhelmed.
In the face of this escalating public safety/public health crisis, the Program continues to work closely and cooperatively with area law enforcement agencies to identify the sources of supply for controlled substances and bring prosecutions. The school has also responded by re-doubling its efforts to facilitate the early identification of middle school aged (12 to 13 years of age) and high school aged (14 to 18 years of age) students, who maybe at risk from mental heath issues and substance abuse. Additionally, the Program and the Swanton Police Department continue to advocate for additional funding and programming for controlled substance education and treatment, and expanded mental health services. As a result, an NCSS Mental Health Clinician is now co located at MVU three days a week.
PROTECTION AND GUIDANCE:
The Program continues to work diligently every day to develop positive, sound relationships with kids, and consequently enjoys excellent relationships, and wide acceptance with an ever increasing number of kids, not only at MVU, but throughout Franklin County. Because of these relationships, the Program is directly in touch with the thoughts, feelings, issues and behaviors of the area’s young people, and has become one of the principle underpinnings for the safety and security of the school and the community at large. Simply stated, friendships built on trust greatly enhance school safety, and serve to support efforts to prevent and intervene in adverse and potentially tragic situations. t this time in our nation's life, there is no substitute for cooperation, and timely and actionable intelligence in protecting schools and the community.
The Program has also excelled in eliminating the harmful stereotypes that once separated cops and kids in the community. In doing so, officers discovered that many kids were sorely lacking when it came to accessing credible people with real life experiences, and perspectives and that many kids had absolutely no place to turn for advice and guidance with the exception of their naive and sometimes misinformed peers, and the community's undesirables who too often inhabit their world. In addressing this need, the officers discovered that many of the kids became supporters rather than detractors, and began introducing officers to other kids from other schools in the surrounding communities. These kids like many other kids today, yearn for something better than the status quo that is being offered up on the streets. They come looking for the advice, guidance, safety and acceptance that accompanies real friendship, and, more often than not, they are shocked to find that their friend has introduced them to a cop.
Most cops know a criminal when they meet one, and that highly developed professional skill is at the core of the Program's philosophy and success. Generally, kid behavior and conduct is most often the product of innocence, isolation, confusion, conflict and vulnerability, and can easily be confused with criminality. Thus, the Program has de-emphasized the traditional application of consequences and accountability,today's politically correct code for punishment and sanctions. Instead the program embraces a posture that recognizes the future value of all kids, and their individual situations, by responding calmly and thoughtfully to transgressions, while translating those incidents into teachable moments. Modeling civility, capacity, listening and understanding with kids, and assisting them in exploring their issues, promotes a kid's understanding of all the dimensions and impact of their transgressions, and exposes kids to reason, kindness, and reconciliation; qualities sorely lacking in today's world.
The goal of the School Resource Officer Program is the hope that every police officer will come to fully understand the critical importance of every encounter with every kid, and use that encounter as an opportunity to provide constructive guidance and insight, because strong, positive, relationships with kids, along with a WELL DEVELOPED SENSE OF HUMOR are the key to enhancing not only school and public safety, but respect for the law and our institutions of justice.
Kevin J. Cleary, BSCJ
Swanton Police Department
120 First Street
Swanton, Vermont 05488
PRIMARY DUTIES OF THE SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER
- Police and Public Safety Advisor to the Principal and Director of Student Affairs; First Responder In All School Emergencies, and Law Enforcement Coordinator and Supervisor for all Lockdown Drills.
- Being a highly approachable and accessible police officer for young people.
- Being a police presence on campus empowered to address criminal issues by providing specialized investigative and enforcement services, and conducting formal investigations into all criminal offenses impacting students and/or the safe and orderly operation of the school.
- Providing constitutional and criminal law related education, violence, alcohol and drug prevention education, along with candid advice and insight regarding real world expectations and consequences.
- Assisting and supporting the school administration in identifying, addressing and resolving problems.
- Serving as a sanctuary, sounding board and vent for angry, agitated, or at risk young people seeking relief from the pressures and problems of the day.
- An advocate for, and a guide to, professional intervention and treatment.
- A resource for parents, teachers and young people in solving problems and answering questions. A participant in conferences on an individualized basis, as necessary.
- A source of counseling and direction for young people in matters pertaining to their individual health, welfare and safety.
- A source for career information and insights for young people interested in a career in the criminal justice system.
- Supporting and protecting the integrity of the school transportation system by stepping up enforcement presence and addressing any and all matters impacting safety.
- Understanding that the SRO position is not an 8-5 job, and that being a safe and trusted friend to kids is 24/7.