There’s been a lot of debate about police presence in the schools, and I was wondering if there is going to be a police presence to check for weapons. Being in the Columbine area, we kind of worry about that because of our history.
Chief Douglas Stephens: Great question. So yes. The Littleton Police Department has a tremendous positive relationship with Littleton public schools. We have 79 sworn personnel, and we have six of those 79 that are full time assigned to the middle and high schools in Littleton. That is at the request of Littleton public schools as part of our great partnership that we have with them. We call it the SRO, school resource officer program. So the SROs I think are tremendously beneficial in promoting positive relationships between law enforcement and the youth in our community. I think I can point to numerous, numerous times where those relationships, those positive relationships that have been formed have saved lives. It’s not just situations like you’re talking about, the tragedy of Columbine, Arapahoe High School, or the STEM shooting. Those are horrific. We do everything we can to prevent and mitigate those situations.
But quite more frequently that people don’t usually hear about are the number of suicide interventions that we’re able to complete because of someone trusted an officer enough to tell them some information about someone they were concerned about. Then there’s processes in place where we can work with the school districts to do a positive interaction or intervention with kids that are in trouble and help them stay safe. Then there’s just the regular situations on a day-to-day basis, where if you see the SROs in the schools working with the kids, you would really have a true appreciation for that positive relationship. It’s nice to go in there and just see the kids messing around with the officers and the officers chatting it up with them. There are times where we do have to take enforcement action. Thankfully, they’re very limited, and we work with the schools to do alternative methods other than some sort of criminal violation. Sometimes we have no choice, but often we do. The school district has a wonderful internal discipline policy that they can follow.
But really, it’s all about having the right officer for that job because we don’t want to put the wrong officer in there and then have problems with authority, and it’d be a negative situation. It’d be very damaging. So we involve the school districts and the community in picking those officers, and if the school doesn’t like that officer, they don’t go in that school. We’re very fortunate. We have a good positive relationship, a little in the public schools. They promote safety. But more importantly, I think they promote those positive relationships, which help our youth.