by Christine Mahorney
The Colorado State Patrol (CSP) has designated Trooper Gregory Stevens-Mejias as a School Resource Officer (SRO) for West Grand School District.
West Grand Superintendent Darrin Peppard said WGSD has been working to secure a SRO for the past two years through the Kremmling Police Department, but because of KPD’s staffing issues, hadn’t been able to make the position a reality.
“The agreement with CSP came from conversations with Trooper Gregory and Sargeant Smart at CSP,” Peppard said. “While it isn’t yet a full-time position, we are grateful for their support.”
Peppard continued by saying the SRO’s role in school safety is to be present in the schools, serve on the district safety team, be involved in safety drills and planning, and be available with student situations.
State Patrol’s decision to partner with WGSD was partly made because of the District 4 post located directly behind West Grand High School, and also because of the West Grand community’s need for law enforcement support.
“The shortage of staff from other local law enforcement agencies created a need in the community that I am more than happy to fill,” Stevens-Mejias said.
The appointment is a Colorado State Patrol initiative, and is not currently a position funded by West Grand School District (WGSD). “My time at schools is a small portion of my duties as a Trooper,” Stevens-Mejias said. “There are funds allocated by our Command Staff for this branch.”
What is a School Resource Officer?
A Resource Officer is a law enforcement officer that works closely with teachers and administrators of a school district to help ensure the safety of students.
While their primary role is to support school staff in mentoring students and helping with youth-related issues on campus, as law enforcement officers, they have the ability to make arrests, respond to calls for service and document incidents that occur on school grounds.
Since the Columbine school shooting in 1999, U.S. law enforcement agencies have been studying and analyzing behaviors of school shooters. To date, there isn’t a specific “profile” that can identify a potential threat. As a result of the studies, the U.S. Justice Department recommended that school districts partner with law enforcement agencies to create threat assessment teams.
The assignment of an SRO to West Grand is partly a response to this recommendation.
The Colorado State Patrol does not have dedicated SROs, however, the CSP’s overall goal is to reduce fatalities and preventable injuries through education – which begins at the elementary school level. The CSP has age-specific educational programs it brings to communities, and designating an SRO for West Grand is part of that program.
Trooper Stevens-Mejias elaborated that establishing relationships within the communities they serve is a key component to building trust and confidence. “While the bulk of State Trooper operations will remain on the roadways, our ability to truly improve roadway safety and therefore community safety, starts with building relationships within Grand County schools,” he said.
“The (students) most receptive to my presence in schools have been at the Elementary and Middle School,” Stevens-Mejias said. “I enjoy interacting with the eight to 12-year-old range because they aren’t shy and have lots of questions for me.”
Stevens-Mejias continued that early-childhood education has shown to positively impact students’ futures when they face personal choices about personal safety.
The SRO role also has a personal meaning for Trooper Stevens-Mejias. “I strive to be the police officer I needed in my life when I was younger,” he said. “Whether a kindergartener or graduating senior needs my help, I want to be there for that student.”
Stevens-Mejias lives in Steamboat Springs. During his time away from the CSP, he enjoys cooking, snowboarding and martial arts. He’s also an assistant coach for Steamboat Springs Jiu Jitsu’s youth program.