The Socorro Consolidated School District has school resource officers at the middle and high school, thanks to agreements with the Socorro County Sheriff’s Department and the City of Socorro. The push to add resource officers to the schools comes because of an incident in February where a middle school student brought a gun to a Socorro High School basketball game.
The district had a budget for one school resource officer, a position that was unfilled. The approximately $60,000 budgeted for salary and benefits for the vacant position is being used to pay Socorro County Sheriff’s deputies hourly to act as resource officers at the high school, said Socorro Superintendent Ron Hendrix. Because it’s close to the end of the school year, the amount spent will be well under the amount budgeted.
The deputies are picking up the hours after their regular shifts and are rotating the duty. Hendrix said there is a potential candidate for the vacant school resource officer position. He believes it could be filled by December or January, eliminating the need to have sheriff’s deputies pick up the additional shifts.
The City of Socorro is providing two part-time school resource officers to the school district for Sarracino Middle School. Each resource officer will work two days. Between the pair, they will cover the four day school week.
“We’re very, very grateful that they have stepped up and helped us with anything we needed from a security standpoint,” said School Board President Dave Hicks when he discussed the changes at Monday’s School Board meeting.
The city and the school district have a Memorandum of Understanding that the city will provide the two resource officers at the middle school for three years in exchange for some unused portables that the district owns. The city will be responsible for moving the portables.
The two resource officers will double as city code enforcement officers, Mayor Ravi Bhasker explained during last week’s City Council meeting. The existing code enforcement officer is also a certified police officer. The City Council approved changing his job description to include working two days as a resource officer at the middle school. This allows them to get someone into the middle school immediately. The city will hire a second person who will also work as both a code enforcement officer and a school resource officer.
The city has previously provided resource officers to the schools, but that program went away when funding for it went away, said Bhasker. With 12 officers in the Socorro Police Department, the city does not have enough police officers employed to move one of the existing city officers into a school resource officer position. Recruiting new officers has been challenging, said Bhasker.
“We don’t have enough police officers to keep them at the schools. We just don’t have them. We had 22 at one time,” said Bhasker.
“Traditionally the young ones, they don’t want to be at the school,” said Police Chief Mike Winders. “They want to be out doing police work, so if you can get somebody older, I think they have a lot better interaction probably. Somebody more mature.”
The city council also discussed the importance of providing programming for kids and teenagers.
Councilor Anton Salome said he hopes the city can continue to provide recreational programming on weekends and after school, and Councilor Mary Ann Chavez-Lopez suggested bringing back programs like those that were available at the teen center for kids in the 12 to 14-year-old range.
They also discussed the challenge of figuring out what to do when kids are causing serious issues and aren’t allowed in school.
“They do something, and they obviously shouldn’t be walking around on the streets, but you make phone calls to try to get them to a juvenile detention center and there’s no spots,” said Council member Damien Ocampo.
The student who allegedly brought the gun to the basketball game was released back into the custody of his family the same night, because there were no spots at a juvenile detention center at the time. He was sent to a detention center a week later.
Bhasker said the idea of creating a juvenile detention center in Socorro has been brought up to him, “and we’ll work on that.”