by Charles Cassady
Police presence in schools is not a new idea, but recent national acts of gun violence, lockdown warnings, online threats and parental anxiety have led the dedicated position known as school resource officer to become prominent in the public conscience. In 2023, two new SROs are stepping in to fill the posts within the Independence Local School district.
“Officer Troy Keegan will be the SRO for the high school and Officer Jim Green will be the SRO for the primary school. Both officers share time at the middle school,” said Independence Police Chief Robert Butler. “[Keegan and Green] have both served the city of Independence for over 20 years, they have been involved in many outreach programs and have a strong connection with the community and the schools.”
The duo replaces officers Kevin Repicky, who has been promoted to sergeant, and Brad Borowy, who will be retiring.
“When conducting interviews for the SRO positions, I looked for officers that wanted to connect with our students, develop programs and work closely with school staff,” said Butler.
“Green and Keegan are excellent examples of officers who really care about their work and their community,” said Independence Local Schools Superintendent Ben Hegedish. “Green has been a constant presence in our buildings as an officer. Keegan has spent years as a coach and has quite a bit of experience connecting with adolescents. They have both already prioritized connections and relationships while being that supportive and protective presence.”
Independence has had school resource officers for 30 years; the SRO program superseded the former DARE anti-drug initiative. SROs are empowered not only in illegal narcotics education and prevention, but also general crime prevention, safety, peacekeeping and de-escalating, advising in legal affairs and serving as positive role models among the students.
Specialized skills in such positions evolve over time. Said Butler, “The officers assigned to the schools will be completing Crisis Intervention Team training this year. This training teaches officers to connect with someone in a mental health or other type of crisis. Both officers will also attend school resource officer training, which is approximately a 40-hour course.”
Recently, much attention in security has gone to ALICE, – an acronym that stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate – standardized steps taken in potentially dangerous situations.
“I plan on having both officers certified as ALICE instructors. Instructors in ALICE can teach our school staff how to protect themselves and students during an active threat,” said Butler.
Being a school resource officer is a full-time, Monday-through-Friday, eight-hour position, with allowances for overtime for after-hours and weekend work at extracurricular and sporting events.
And, despite the “School’s Out for Summer” anthem of another Alice – Cooper – officers holding this beat do not enjoy weeks of summer vacation. “SROs do not have summers off,” said Butler. “During the summer they are responsible for coordinating ‘Safety Town’ and other programs.”
One of those additional programs is a “Teen Safe Driver” class, taking place under the SROs in the spring. Other new-year goals for the department: “I plan on sending our SROs to several training courses to learn from others in the police community and bring back the newest and best ideas to our schools,” said Butler. “Outreach and connection are key. We will look to continue what we started in 2022 – video game tournaments, morning announcements and more.”
For more information on the SRO program on a statewide basis, visit osroa.org. To contact Independence SROs on any matters or provide tips, Butler recommends calling the school involved during daytime hours, or phoning the Independence non-emergency police line at 216-524-1234. ∞