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Posted on Oct 16, 2018

SRO looks out for schools

Schools, while they are entities on their own, are not removed from the society around them. The law enforcement issues that occur in Quincy and its vicinity can also take place in any of its schools.
Quincy has employed a School Resource Officer (SRO) for some six years now. The position is currently held by Officer Sal Mancini.
“He is a good fit for the job,” said John Boyd, Quincy School District superintendent, in a Sept. 18 interview. “Sal knows the kids and builds supportive relationships. He is not heavy-handed in his work.”

Officer Sal Mancini is the School Resource Officer in Quincy.
Photo by Jaana Hatton/For the Post-Register

What is an SRO? According to www.cops.usdoj.gov, he or she is a sworn law enforcement officer responsible for safety and crime prevention in schools. He or she works closely with the administrators. An SRO can make arrests, responds to call of service and documents incidents within his or her jurisdiction.
An SRO is a law enforcer, an informal counselor, an educator and an emergency manager.
In Quincy, Mancini has seven schools to oversee. He mainly stays at the junior high but makes sure to visit all the schools regularly. He will, of course, respond to calls for assistance at any of the schools when needed.
“The law enforcement issues at our schools can include drugs, weapons or threats, for example,” said Quincy Chief of Police Kieth Siebert in a Sept. 17 interview. “But we want the SRO to build relationships, not just enforce the law.”
According to Siebert, the presence of an officer on school premises has made the students’ attitudes more positive. He explained that the SRO wears a “softer” uniform; a polo shirt instead of the regular police uniform, to make his or her appearance less intimidating. The SRO does carry the normal police officer’s gear, including a gun, at all times.
Mancini was assigned to the SRO position this fall.
“I try to approach the students and chat. I know some of the kids, and they will talk,” Mancini said in a Sept. 17 interview. “I do a morning patrol in the school zone and basically stay at the Junior High.”
According to Boyd, the greater Quincy community has responded to the presence of an SRO in a positive manner. It seems to appreciate the added security the law enforcement officer’s presence brings.
“Chief Siebert and I have had good communication,” Boyd said. “The chief is a phenomenal partner and has a heart for the kids.”
“It took a while to learn to speak the same language,” Siebert said with a smile. “The school administrators want to see the good in every student, while the police have to be more critical.”
The Quincy schools and law enforcement have found an understanding in their dialogue and are looking forward to continued cooperation in keeping schools safe.
Carleton University in Canada did a two-year study on the effect of an SRO on campus (www.nasro.org). The results, which were released in 2018, indicate that:
• There was minimization of property damage in the school and nearby areas.
• There was prevention of student injuries and even death due to violence, drugs, etc.
• There was reduction in the likelihood that a student would have a criminal record.
• There was an increase in getting students the help they needed (for instance, with mental health issues)
It seems that even though an SRO is a law enforcement official, an SRO is also much more. Students are encouraged to talk with him; he is there to help, first and foremost. With communication, many problems can be avoided before they emerge in full force.

By Jaana Hatton, For the Post-Register