Twenty-nine school resource officers from South Dakota and several other states gathered this week for training at the Pennington County Sheriff's Office in Rapid City.
The week-long program, taught by the National Association for School Resource Officers, served both as a primer for new officers and as a refresher for those with more experience under their belts. Officers said they were able to share tips and best practices with colleagues who traveled from Montana, Colorado, Oregon and elsewhere.
Cody Rhoden, a school resource officer of one year at Rapid City Stevens High School, said learning about the legal parameters of the job this week has helped to illustrate the basis of those practices.
"We know how to do things the right way," Rhoden said. "One of the big things is learning why we do things that way."
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NASRO Instructor Todd Runyan said Friday that the consistent presence of school resource officers affords them a chance to build trust with students that is not often presented by busy patrol officers. Part of NASRO instruction focuses on community policing, which Runyan said is a key pillar of school work in addition to security responsibilities.
"If you're in a community where you're going from call to call to call to call, you really don't have the opportunity to create those relationships," Runyan said.
That approach differs from the one taken by officers who Thad Schmit remembers from his time at Stevens.
"I knew who our school resource officer was, but we never saw him. We only saw him in case there was an emergency," Schmit, a Stevens resource officer of several weeks, said. "Now, we're very much out there at lunch time talking to the kids, trying to build relationships in the classrooms."