BURLEY — There’s a new face around Cassia County schools this year — and the face belongs to a man wearing a gun and a badge.
Cassia County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Rose is the new school resource officer for the district, a position that will be funded jointly by the school district and the sheriff’s office.
Rose will replace the previous full-time D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer and a resource officer that was shared by the sheriff’s patrol division.
The former D.A.R.E. officer was based at White Pine Elementary School, which housed fourth, fifth and sixth grade students.
This year the district transitioned all of the Burley elementary schools to K-6 grades and the district suspended the D.A.R.E. program.
“The big shift for the resource officer has been to act as more as a liaison between the school district and the sheriff’s office and without the focus on D.A.R.E.,” district spokeswoman Debbie Critchfield said. “Nationally, schools have backed off from D.A.R.E.”
Rose will cover all 18 schools in the district.
“He’s amazing,” Burley Junior High School Principal Steve Copmann said. “The first week of school he was already in the halls chatting with the kids. As adults we think we know what going on in the school, but the kids, they really know.”
Anytime Rose saw a student alone, he went over to chat with them, Copmann said.
“He’s building relationships with these kids and that’s what school is all about,” Copmann said.
It’s important, he said, for students, especially at the junior high school level, to have positive interactions with police officers.
“If you are going to change kids, he said, this is about the last chance you have.”
Cassia County Undersheriff George Warrell said the school district and sheriff’s office will each pay half of the wages for the position.
It costs about $77,000 to put a resource officer in the schools, including benefits.
Copmann would like to have a resource officer stationed full time at the school.
“I think it really adds a sense of security,” he said.
The sheriff’s office and school district are currently working together to implement a second part-time school resource officer that will be paid for by the school district.
Rose said his major role is to just provide a police presence at the schools. He will have an office at the junior high and visit all of the schools — without a set schedule.
“I don’t want to be predictable,” Rose said about keeping his schedule flexible, which provides an element of safety.
Part of his duties will also be responding to incidents at the school that require a deputy.
One benefit of being in charge of all the schools, he said, is that he will establish relationships with students early on that will carry over as they transition to junior high and high school.
Rose underwent about 60 hours of training for the position over the summer.
During some of the training other resource officers expressed shock that Rose will monitor so many schools.
He will also respond to sheriff office calls when there is an emergency in the community.
The sheriff’s office resident deputies, stationed in Declo, Albion, Malta and Oakley, also help patrol the schools in the outlying communities and are used during school functions like sporting events that require police patrol.
Rose started working for the sheriff’s office at the jail in 2012 and became a patrol officer in 2014.
The hardest part of the school resource officer job, he said, is going out of the “comfort zone and making small talk with students.”
“But, it’s also the most important part,” Rose said.
Student Aubri Ramos, 13, enjoyed asking Rose about the equipment that he carries.
“It’s pretty cool to have him here,” student Kestle King, 13, said. “It’s nice to know someone is here to keep us safe with all the threats we hear about. When we had the police come here before they would never interact or talk with us.”
After eight days on the job, Rose is still working the bugs out of the position and figuring out the dynamics of interacting with students.
“That’s the time frame I have to work with,” he said after the bell clamored signaling the end of the 5 minute period between classes. “I have that brief time period to interact with the kids.”
He will also be at the schools during lunchtime and before and after school.
Part of his training included how to respond to a school attack and how to help students solve their problems before they resort to violence.
Knowing how to read the signs of a potential attacker and how to intervene can keep smaller events from turning into tragedies, he said.
“I want to be proactive and see the big picture of what’s happening at all the schools.”