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Student Resource Officers prepare for school year

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School Resource Sgt. Ron Smith speaks with a student at volleyball practice at Goddard High School. (Trevier Gonzalez Photo)

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Students from around the community may be trying to make the most of their summer days, but for the school resource officers in Roswell, they’re hard at work in preparing a safe and enjoyable experience at schools for another year.

There are a total of three SROs, which include Laura Macias, Tracy Oldani, Trong Nguyen and School Resource Sgt. Ron Smith.
Smith will be starting his second year as SRO supervisor. Previously, Smith was in the Navy Reserves for 26 years and has been with the Roswell Police Department for 14 years. While crime scene investigations were his specialty for eight years with the RPD, he said working in schools is a change of pace and a different kind of challenge.
“It was its own type of challenge because I went from investigating crime scenes,” Smith said. “Most crime scenes don’t have people at them that I have to deal with, much less teenagers.”
Macias, a Roswell High School graduate and Spanish and English as a Second Language teacher said she has been dedicated in law enforcement for 16 years, starting as a patrol officer, then a detective in property. This year marks her third year as an SRO.
“From there, I moved on as a detective in the criminal division, and then, after 10 years of being with criminal investigations, there was an opening for a school resource officer,” Macias said. “I was a schoolteacher before, so I wanted to kind of come back with the kids.”
Macias applied for the SRO position about three years ago, and has remained ever since. She also added that working as an officer at a school was a change of pace.
“In the criminal investigation division, I was dealing with the public, dealing with adults,” Macias said. “The school resource officer, is kind of more like a — I won’t say relaxing, but you get a little more comfortable with the kids.
“They get comfortable with you, they don’t see you as like, ‘Oh, I’m going to go to jail.’ You kind of give guidance for them, and that kind of makes you feel comfortable that they come to you even though they know you’re law enforcement — they have like a different kind of trust level.”
While Smith is still in charge of the SRO program, he said he won’t have as much flexibility as before following the retirement of a well-liked SRO Helen Cheromiah last year. Smith will be working at Sierra Middle School.
Smith said, as officers, they’re able to adapt to everything.
“Kids can be their own challenge because even though they know right from wrong, they’re not scared of anything,” he said. “They’re willing to try things that me, as an adult, I may have tried when I was a kid — it’s not happening now.”
Macias said working with children on a regular basis is different from working with people on cases because she wouldn’t see anyone once a case would conclude.
“Kids, they still get in trouble, you still give them a citation for whatever they did wrong, and the next day — they still come to you and talk to you like nothing happened,” she said. “They don’t take it to a personal level.
“Sooner or later, they come and thank you and say, ‘You know, I was in the wrong.’ They admit their mistakes.”

Working with older students too is an assignment of its own, Smith said.
“Teenagers can be their own challenge as they’re going through their growing pains, trying to find their own way,” he said. “They want to fight everything they can fight. They don’t know where they want to be or where their place is in life, and so dealing with them when they go through those changes, we have to be adept at learning how to talk to them more than them to us.”
Smith said he is often recognized by the students he helps when he’s out in public.
“The best one for me, and I laugh about it, was probably a little scary for the parent at first,” Smith said. “I was dealing with a lot of elementary schools, I had a first-grader run up to me in Wal-Mart and hug me. Her mom didn’t have any idea who I was.
“So then I had to take the time to explain to mom who I was — it’s a little embarrassing. It’s nice that the kids recognize you, and that’s what we want, but with her reaction to running up to me, now I have to explain to parents that I’m the guy that you want them to run to actually.”
Macias said while she works from Mesa Middle School, she also acts as officer Oldani’s backup.
“Same thing with me,” she said. “If I’m doing something and something happens at one of my schools, then she’s my backup. She always talks to my schools, and of course, my sergeant is on top of everything.”
Sgt. Smith said chief of police Phil Smith has been continually working to improve the SRO program, which works to improve the relationship between police and students.
“He is really adept at wanting this program,” Smith said. “Because he wants to see that progress and build that community relation, so we’re taking advantage of that while we can.”
Macias mentioned how the SRO program gives her the opportunity to mentor and work with students once more.
“I really enjoy it,” she said. “We’re not there to give the kids a hard time or arrest them or anything — we are there to kind of assist the school personnel and also to be a guidance for the kids and make sure that whenever they get to this level of high school, (that) they know better and they make better decisions when it comes to things that are not supposed to happen at school.”
Smith’s job is to make students feel like he is approachable so that he can help solve their problems. As tasking (and occasionally funny) as it may be, at the end of the day, he said the program works.
“I’ve had parents look at me kind of weird when their kids run up and give me a high-five out in the middle of nowhere,” Smith said. “The program has its advantages, and it does work. As long as they see us and know they can come to us, that’s what we’re looking for. Let’s use us as a resource for the community to know that your kids can be safe talking with a police officer.”
Macias reminds students that if they bring their issues to law enforcement, they can help.
“Always follow the rules,” she said. “If they have problems or issues with anybody, don’t forget that that’s what counselors, school resource officers are for; to go and talk to us and feel comfortable, because that’s the only way problems are going to be addressed and solutions are going to be found.”
Smith asks that parents and drivers to be aware of their surroundings this school year.
“I’m asking the parents, and those that are driving to pay attention to all of the warning signs, the no parking signs, the no drop-off signs — the speed limits especially — and just because it’s not a school zone doesn’t mean there aren’t kids there,” he said.
“Just watch out for our young ones, and let’s get them all to and from school safely.”
Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

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