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Former Colorado school resource officer shares insight on DPS plan to bring SROs back to campuses

"It is a piece of the puzzle that's missing in some schools," said former SRO, Stacey Collis.
Posted at 5:22 PM, Mar 24, 2023

DENVER — Armed officers will once again be at Denver high schools following the shooting two deans at East High on Wednesday.

Denver7 sat down with a former school resource officer who shared his insight on the district's announcement.

Stacey Collis, a former Colorado SRO of 20 years, who now helps train new school resource officers all over the country, said the move by DPS to reverse their 2020 decision to remove school resource officers will likely be a process.

"I don't know the specific reason that the school board voted the way they did. I had talked at one point in time when that was going on, saying it was a bad decision to remove the school resource officers out of Denver Public Schools," Collis said. "A lot of them were great friends of mine, the men and women that were doing the job doing great things as their school resource officers within the school system in Denver, and it was sad when they got removed."

Collis works with the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) and has his own program, '2020 Safe Schools.'

"It is a piece of the puzzle that's missing in some schools," said Collis. "And that piece going in and returning to the schools is going to make a world of difference."

RELATED: Studies find impact of school resource officers on US campuses remains inconsistent

He said there is a difference between adding an SRO and armed police officer to a school campus.

"The school resource officers are trained. They have additional training. I went through training on dealing with various mental health issues, those on the autism spectrum, trying to advance myself and then share that information with others on how to deal with these situations that will come up in the schools."

Collis added that he spoke up three years ago when DPS voted to remove SROs from school campuses.

"I know a lot of the schools and a lot of the places around said, 'This is a bad choice to move them out.' But yet they went ahead and removed them from the schools. And I think you're now seeing some of the ramifications of that decision," he said.

He said adding them back to schools will likely be a process.

"There are some that were there that will be placed back into the schools, but it will be a building process to get them back to where they once were. That's just the nature of you know, coming back into the school and building those relationships. So it's going to take a period of time. But it is a good move to move them back in so that they can start building those relationships, they can start working with the community. And it's not just within the school walls, but it's within that community surrounding the school," added Collis.

Frustrated over gun violence, what these East High School parents want to change

A former East High school student, who preferred not to be identified, said she saw how much these officers helped on campus.

"They were around the building, when fights would happen. They would be there. If there were any, you know, big things. If there were like lockdowns, they'd help," she said.

Denver7's in-depth reporting this week shows that even studies on the impacts of SROs are mixed. The most comprehensive came from the National Institute of Justice, which determined that school policing was "not an effective way to increase safety and security."

The study also found that schools with SROs had "higher rates of suspensions and expulsions."

Collins adds that it's important to make sure officers are a good fit.

"We want to get quality people into these positions. It is a good move to move them back in so that they can start building those relationships, they can start working with the community," he said.

There are still a lot of questions about the plan. Denver7 reached out to DPS and DPD but they were not available for on-camera interviews.

The Denver Public Schools Board of Education is directing Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero to develop a long-term safety plan. He has until the end of June to present it. The board will then vote on it before the start of the 2023-2024 school year.

DPD sent the following statement:

The Denver Police Department committed on March 22nd to providing two officers to work at East High School and one officer to work at each of the other DPS comprehensive high schools when students return from Spring Break, and that remains the Department’s plan at this time. Additionally, an officer in each police district will continue working as liaisons to the leadership teams of middle schools and high schools to assist with any safety concerns. In light of the DPS Board’s announcement on Thursday, DPD will continue working in close partnership with Mayor Hancock and Denver Public Schools to examine additional safety and resource needs.

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