SWANTON VILLAGE POLICE DEPARTMENT
SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER PROGRAM
“COMMITTED TO PROTECTION, PEACE, RESPECT, TOLERANCE CIVILITY AND EMPTY PRISON CELLS”
“EVERY KID IN AMERICA SHOULD BE ABLE TO COUNT AT LEAST ONE OR MORE COPS AMONG HIS OR HER BEST FRIENDS.”
SCHOOL YEAR AUGUST 2018 – JUNE 2019
The Swanton Village Police Department’s School Resource Officer Program at Missisquoi Valley Union Middle School and High School is now entering its tenth year of operation. Since its establishment, we have worked in partnership with federal, state and local 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 at MVU. Acceptance, tolerance and understanding continue to grow while disciplinary referrals decline and arrests become rare. Administrative referrals for harassment and bullying remain at an all time low, and a spirit of community and inclusion continues to permeate the entire school.
However, our overall success at MVU is directly attributable to the collaborative commitment and efforts of law enforcement officers and public educators working in unison to build strong healthy relationships with young people. This unified strategy has resulted in 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 our inception.
The Police Officer assigned to the school is a Certified Vermont Law Enforcement Officer, and an honorably retired federal agent with over 47 years of professional experience. He holds a Baccalaureate Degree with Honors in Criminal Justice from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, and has 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. Additionally, the Officer is now entering his 17th year as an Adjunct Instructor of Criminal Justice and his 12th year as a Certified New York Police Academy Instructor. As the department’s 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 assigned Officer is to serve as the first responder in all critical
incidents and a source of credible and actionable intelligence relating to public safety at MVU. The Officer is supported in his mission by fifteen Swanton Police Officers, and enforcement personnel from the Vermont State Police; U. S Border Patrol and Franklin County Sheriff’s Department with secondary investigative and enforcement assistance from the Vermont State Drug Task Force; St. Albans Police Department; Northwest Unit for Special Investigations; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, HSI.
Additionally, the Officer is also interfaced with the Vermont Department of Corrections, Field Supervision Unit, Swanton Fire Department, Missisquoi Valley Rescue, Vermont Department of Children and Families, Northwest Counseling and Support Services and its Mental Health Crisis Team.
We are also very fortunate to enjoy an outstanding relationship with the prosecutors and staff of the Franklin County State’s Attorney’s Office.
PHILOSOPHY AND OPERATIONS:
The Officer embedded at the school fully subscribes to the time honored “beat cop” approach to young people and their issues, and maintains an open door policy in addressing the needs of the community’s young people. The Officer’s relationship with the student community is close, harmonious, and devoid of the customary protocols traditionally associated with police officers and young people, and he encourages students to access him after hours in the event of a serious problem.
The Officer’s philosophy is quite simple. It acknowledges and accepts the fact that being young and inexperienced in the ways of a world gone completely mad can often times result in a periodic, or occasional lapse in judgment. Thus, criminal justice proceedings in matters involving young people are invoked only when absolutely necessary.
Unfortunately, most police encounters with young people usually involve some form of transgression. In these situations, patience, understanding and tolerance are the key. Many times, a second or even a third chance maybe necessary to guide a struggling youngster to a new reality. While the approach may seem “out of the box” and permissive, it should be remembered that the times we live in are, to say the least, “out of the box.” Adolescence is the only period in a young person’s life when time is really on our side, and we know from our own experiences as young people that most youngsters will eventually transition successfully from adolescence to adulthood. Embracing a calm, non-judgmental approach with young people can often lead a young person to a critical re-thinking of his/her perception of the world, and this can be transformative. It has been our experience over the past nine years that a sustained, patient approach with youngsters can result in positive behavioral changes that transcend adolescence, and significantly shift the odds in favor of a positive life changing outcome.
The MVU Football Program has also served to bolster the school’s on-going efforts to expand its cultural reach by bringing more youngsters out of the shadows and into the life of the school. More importantly, MVU Football has served to instill a sense of self esteem and confidence in countless youngsters as they strive for excellence and success on the football field; in the classroom and in life.
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 us than the ever present threat of gun violence and adolescent drug abuse. The State of Vermont’s School Gun Law continues to be woefully out dated, and completely inadequate to address the current threat of gun violence confronting Vermont’s schools. Fueling this threat is the spiraling numbers of adolescent mental health issues such as suicide; self harm; addiction to heroin, crack and powder cocaine; abuse of opiate based pharmaceuticals; alcoholism and decriminalized marihuana which continue to plague students of all ages. Confronted with sky rocketing requests for mental health services and adolescent drug abuse treatment, both nationally and locally, many agencies and programs remain overwhelmed and struggling to provide treatment and support services.
In the face of this escalating public safety/public health crisis, we continue to work closely and cooperatively with area law enforcement agencies to develop and disseminate intelligence in an effort to fully identify drug distributors, sources of supply and assist in developing and presenting impact prosecutions. The school community and its SAP also remain vigilant in their efforts to facilitate the early identification and treatment 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 health disorders and/or substance abuse. Additionally, the Swanton Village Police Department and the school continue to advocate for additional funding and programming for controlled substance education, treatment and expanded mental health services. As a result of these efforts, there are now four mental health clinicians co-located at MVU.
PROTECTION AND GUIDANCE:
We continue to work diligently every day to develop positive, sound relationships with young people, and consequently enjoy excellent relationships, and wide acceptance with an ever increasing number of youngsters, not only at MVU, but across Franklin County. Due to the quality of these relationships, we are directly in touch with the thoughts, feelings, issues and behaviors of the area’s middle school and high school aged students, and have 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. At this time in our nation’s life, there can be no substitute for cooperation, and timely and actionable intelligence in protecting our schools and the community. Because we cannot bring back the dead.
COPS AND YOUNG PEOPLE:
We have also excelled in building bridges to the community by reducing the harmful
stereotypes that divide police officers and young people. However, one unfortunate
result of this initiative has been the troubling realization that many of our young people
lack the presence and influence of a responsible adult in their daily lives. Thus, leaving
them vulnerable, and often times, forcing them to turn to their often misinformed peers,
and the undesirables that inhabit their world for advice. Sadly, today’s young people find
themselves a drift and yearning for something better than the status quo that is being
offered up on the streets. They seek advice, guidance, safety and the acceptance that
accompanies real friendship. Now, more than ever we all must attempt to meet that
Most cops know a criminal when they meet one, and that highly developed professional skill has been the cornerstone of our philosophy and success. Generally, youthful behavior and conduct is the product, or the combination of: innocence, isolation, confusion, conflict and vulnerability, and therefore easily confused with criminality. We also continue to de-emphasize the traditional application of “consequences” and “accountability,” today’s code for punishment and sanctions. Instead, we embrace a posture that recognizes the future value of every young person, while taking into account the all too often complexities and calamities that dominate their lives. By responding calmly and thoughtfully to a young person’s transgressions, it is possible to translate those incidents into teachable moments. Valuable moments, when young people experience civility, listening and understanding; skills and behaviors that will assist them in fully exploring and appreciating all of the dimensions and impact of their transgression, while exposing them to kindness, reason, forgiveness and reconciliation, qualities sorely lacking in today’s world.
However, the larger goal of the assigned Police Officer is the hope that every police officer will come to fully understand the critical importance of every encounter with every young person, and use that encounter as an opportunity to exercise professional discretion, while providing constructive guidance and insight. Because strong, positive, relationships with young people, along with a “WELL DEVELOPED SENSE OF HUMOR!!” are the key to enhancing not only school and public safety, but respect for the spirit of the law and our institutions of justice.
ALWAYS REMEMBER, WE ARE THE GOOD GUYS, AND WE CAN MAKE GOOD THINGS HAPPEN FOR KIDS.
PRIMARY DUTIES OF THE SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER
1. Police and Public Safety Advisor to the Principal and Director of Student Affairs; First Responder In All School Emergencies; Law Enforcement Coordinator and Supervisor for all Lockdown Drills.
2. Being a likable, highly approachable and accessible police officer for young people.
3. Being a police presence on campus empowered to address criminal issues by providing and applying specialized investigative techniques and enforcement resources to all criminal offenses impacting students and/or the safe and orderly operation of the school.
4. Providing constitutional and criminal law related education; violence, alcohol and drug prevention, intervention and education, along with advice, guidance and insight regarding real world expectations and consequences.
5. Assisting and supporting the school administration in the timely identification and resolution of problems.
6. Serving as a SAFE SPACE for all young people; a SANCTUARY and a SOUNDING BOARD for angry agitated, or at risk young people seeking relief from the pressures and problems of the day.
7. An advocate for forgiveness, understanding, reconciliation and tolerance, and a guide to professional intervention and treatment.
8. A credible resource for young people, parents and teachers. A peace maker, problem solver and a contributing, participant in conferences and proceedings as necessary.
9. A source of comfort, counseling and direction for young people in matters pertaining to their individual health, welfare and safety.
10. A source for candid and frank career information and insights for young people interested in a career in the criminal justice system.
11. Supporting and protecting the integrity of the school transportation system by stepping up enforcement presence, and addressing any and all matters impacting safety.
12. AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE POSITION’S IMPORTANCE IN THE LAW ENFORCEMENT PROFESSION, AND AN AWARENESS THAT BEING A SAFE AND TRUSTED FRIEND TO OUR YOUNG IS A 24/7 TOUR.
Kevin J. Cleary, BSCJ
Swanton Police Department
120 First Street