Parents rally around school police officer
A meeting prompted by parent complaints about how Truckee police treat local youth turned into what one parent called “a love fest” for the police department’s school resource officer.
The workshop, a joint venture between the Truckee Town Council and the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District board, was called to work out the kinks between the police – namely school resource officer Roy Richner – and the schools. Truckee police Chief Scott Berry opened the meeting with a presentation about the school resource officer’s duties and the issues Richner has faced in his three years in that post.
But as public comment commenced, the direction of the meeting changed.
Numerous parents and school representatives marched up to the podium to express their support for Richner and the need for the school resource officer position, which has been vacant since December 2003 due to a police staffing shortage. People voiced their support of the district’s fifth-grade DARE program, Richner’s involvement in after-school programs and the relationships he fostered with Truckee youth before the position was dropped.
“Up until today, I didn’t know there were parents who had problems with the police department being ‘overzealous’ …,” said Lynn Altieri, secretary at Sierra Mountain Middle School and parent of two teens at Tahoe Truckee High School. “That’s [the police’s] job. They are there to enforce the law. If my kids get busted, then good. Hopefully they’ll learn from that.”
Truckee High Principal Mike Finney noted the importance of students knowing “there’s another set of eyes on campus.” Students, he said, think twice about doing something wrong if there is a greater chance they might get caught.
During public comment, Truckee Mayor Josh Susman noted that the intent of the meeting was to work on parent perception of the police department.
Councilman Ted Owens said communication with parents might halt misunderstanding between students and law enforcement. Though school officials have communicated with the police department, there might not be enough communication with parents, he said.
At an October 2003 town council meeting, Truckee resident Sandy Casey said Truckee police officers are overbearing and go beyond their duties with Truckee teen-agers. She went so far as to call it “youth profiling.” Town Manager Steve Wright said there have been other parent complaints in the past year.
However, of the 40-or-so parents, school officials and students at Wednesday’s meeting, no one spoke a about law enforcement problems, except that they want the school resource officer to return.
Chief Berry said the department plans to reinstate the position this fall. The school resource officer post is a three-year commitment. Richner has completed his three years in the position.
School officials and town staff will meet over the summer to decide if Richner or another officer will fill the position in the fall.
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