School Resource Officer
New School Resource Officer Kicks Off Twentieth Year of Collaboration Between Ukiah Police Department and Ukiah High School
Ukiah, CA – As many Ukiah-area students begin the school year at a new school, Ukiah Police Officer Vince Morse does the same. Officer Morse is the new School Resource Officer (SRO) for Ukiah Unified School District (UUSD).
Twenty years ago, Ukiah police officers were often called to the high school on a daily basis, according to Ukiah Police Chief Chris Dewey. Recognizing the value of having an officer that students know and trust on campus, UUSD and the Ukiah Police Department (UPD) partnered up to station an officer on campus full time. "UUSD contributes $20,000 toward the position," explained Dewey. "Here at the Ukiah Police Department, we are extremely grateful of the education-police partnership that has been established, and our ability to work side by side with school staff to stop dangerous activities on the school campus. On any given day, roughly 2,000 students and teachers are on the Ukiah High School Campus, and having an officer there to solve and prevent crime is extremely important." Today, the School Resource Officer typically responds to over 450 calls for service a year at Ukiah’s Schools, ranging from assaults and drug activity to a missing child. The SRO spends the majority of his time at Ukiah High School (UHS), but also serves South Valley High School, Pomolita Middle School and local elementary schools.
With a police officer on campus, students and faculty are safer because issues do not escalate as they once did. And, with the addition of a drug-trained K9 officer three years ago, the SRO has helped reduce drug possession and drug use on campus by 50%, according to Dewey. "We are able to be proactive rather than reactive…and the SRO allows us to manage our workload more effectively."
According to UHS Vice Principal Jason Iversen, the SRO not only helps solve crimes that occur on the school campus, the SRO helps prevents crimes from occurring. Because the SRO builds relationships with the students, they often trust him enough to report information about threats, weapons for fights so he can de-escalate situations.
"We use an interactive model," said Sergeant Erik Baarts, a former SRO who now supervises the position. "We’re about half enforcement and half interaction, working with students, faculty, and parents to deal with issues. I think it’s important for students to see a police officer in a positive role, and the interactive SRO model allows for that." Baarts noted that some students have turned to the SRO to report abuse, so students get the help they need.
In addition to addressing immediate safety concerns, the SRO works with UUSD staff to provide crisis prevention training, security planning, and training on how to recognize other dangers, including gang activity. The SRO also maintains a visible presence at school functions such as sporting events and dances to deter illegal behavior.
Incoming SRO Officer Morse shared his enthusiasm about his new position. "I’ve been a police officer for nine years. I have experience working in jails, prisons and on the street, and I can use that experience to talk to kids about what it’s really like out there. Hopefully, I can help steer them in the right direction," he said.
The officers who have served as SROs include Marcus Young, Kevin DeVries, Glenn Stark, Chris Gordon, Erik Baarts, Andy Porter, Tim Marsolan and K9-Daisy, and now Vince Morse and K9-Bugsy.