As your child walks the halls of their school, they are being protected by a school resource officer. These officers are equipped and prepared to handle any potential danger that may arise from outside the school building. Currently stationed inside schools across the country, they patrol the premises to ensure the safety and security of students and faculty alike.
In our investigation for 11 Call For Action, we discovered that not all local SRO programs are equal and not all officers are equipped with the same types of weapons. This disparity could potentially leave them at a disadvantage in certain scenarios.
During our investigation, our team reached out to various school districts and law enforcement agencies to gather information about how they handle their SRO programs. However, we came across one school district that stood out from the rest. Despite our numerous attempts, this district refused to provide any documentation or information regarding their SRO programs, maintaining a high level of secrecy.
“We cannot avoid the threat, we have to confront it head-on,” stated the speaker with conviction.
In Colorado Springs, the safety of students is a top priority, especially in middle and high schools, where specially trained school resource officers are present in all 14 city-area schools. Lt. Kevin Miyakusu leads this team, and they are always prepared for the worst-case scenario. Equipped with duty handguns and rifles, these officers are ready to respond to an active shooter situation at a moment’s notice. Their continuous training ensures that they are always prepared to protect the students and faculty in their care.
According to Miyakusu, all officers who complete the training academy are proficient in both handguns and rifles.
All El Paso County Sheriff’s deputies who serve in school districts within the county share the same principle.
According to SRO Deputy Teresa Murphy, they are just as equipped as patrol officers, wearing the same uniform and carrying the same gear. This includes carrying a sidearm and a taser when entering the school. However, the duties of an SRO are vastly different than those of a patrol officer, as they interact with children and families on a daily basis, forming a more personal relationship with them.
The CSPD and EPSO regularly send their SROs to specialized schools for recertification on both handguns and rifles. Although there are no national standards for how SROs should be armed, some are worried that in the case of an armed intruder, pistols may not be as effective as rifles. This is because officers usually need to be closer to the target for an accurate shot. In some scenarios, an SRO armed with a pistol could be overpowered by an armed attacker.
According to Miyakusu, the presence of a rifle in a school setting could be crucial as it allows the staff to counter any potential threat from an assailant whose intentions are unknown. He emphasized the significance of this measure, especially in schools with extensive hallways where the staff may need to meet force with force.
Woodland Park School District RE-2 appeared to lack transparency regarding their SRO programs and training, in contrast to the openness and transparency demonstrated by CSPD and EPSO.
In August 17, 2023, the district issued a letter to the community, stating that they planned to introduce armed security officers who would be serving as school resource officers. The letter was only one page long and was addressed to parents.
The documentation for the training and certification of the personnel hired to provide armed security was requested by 11 News through an open records request.
According to the district’s message to the community, the individuals who are being referred to as “dedicated professionals” must have undergone intensive training programs that are either related to law enforcement or other specialized areas.
As part of our investigative reporting, our newsroom was curious to find out whether these officers were qualified to use rifles. Given that they are not sworn officers like the rest of the local SRO programs, we also reached out to the district for more information on how they handle the training and certification process for these armed guards.
According to the district, there were no records available regarding the matter.
After our newsroom asked for further clarification, Superintendent Ken Witt sent an email stating that specific details regarding their armed security program are not released for safety and security reasons.
The community is currently being left in the dark as important information is being withheld regarding the armed security personnel. It is unknown who these personnel are, what level of training and certifications they possess, or if they are authorized to carry specific types of weapons. This information has been easily accessible by other local agencies, which raises concerns about why it is being kept from the community.
According to insiders from the Woodland Park School District, some of the armed security personnel on site are actually current school staff members. This is permissible under state law, as long as they undergo the necessary training programs. However, despite our attempts to obtain information on said training and certification for weapons from the district, they have elected not to respond to our inquiries. As a result, we are unable to provide this information to our readers at this time.