School Resource Officer Ryan Dasso
BY DORIS B. TRUHLAR
Arapahoe County Sheriff Dave Walcher
School Resource Officer Ryan Dasso describes his job as one in which he wears “a lot of hats,” as in has many different roles to play. Dasso has interesting stories, and it is obvious from a visit to the school to which he is assigned that he is highly regarded by the students, as well as the faculty. They like him.
Dasso is the SRO assigned to Sky Vista Middle School, a Cherry Creek School District facility in unincorporated Arapahoe County, at 4500 South Himalaya Street. The school is about nine years old. He is an employee of the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, as are all of the resource officers in the county.
One of Dasso’s stories is about a student who got his finger stuck in a faucet because he wanted to see if his finger would fit. This necessitated a call to the fire department.
The SRO describes the school as a “home away from home” for many of the students. The father of an 11-month-old son, Dasso is a seasoned officer, having spent four years in the patrol division, before becoming an SRO. Dasso states that there are three primary “hats” of the SRO’s, which are safety and law enforcement, counselor and educator.
Comparing the two jobs – patrol versus school – Dasso says being an SRO allows the officer “to be proactive, to get ahead of things.” In comparison, a patrol officer usually is responding to a situation that needs correcting. Patrol officers have a “reactive” role. The two roles are equally important.
Dasso notes that the students generally are “so excited to see you. They are interested in what you have to say. You see the impact that you have on them.” He believes that technology is a huge factor in the education of middle school students today.
The Arapahoe Sheriff’s Office, with the permission of the school districts, sponsors parent academies for the parents of the middle school students. Dasso believes that some “kids today are maturing more quickly physically, but not emotionally.” In some cases, their emotional growth could be stunted because they do not have contact with other people due to constantly being on their electronic devices.
He also thinks that, in regard to cellular telephones, the devices should be left in lockers, and not brought into the classrooms. While computers are great tools, they should not be used in ways that will contribute to the limiting of emotional development and growth of the students.
The SRO also believes that having an officer in the school has a “calming influence” and that it minimizes, or at least lessens, property damage in schools. He notes that property damage has not been a big issue at Sky Vista.
During the past year, Dasso has been making maps that show detailed renditions of Sky Vista. He believes these maps could help emergency responders get to a bad situation quicker.
Arapahoe County Sheriff Walcher noted that training is extremely important for the SROs who work for his office. During the summer, much of the officers’ time is spent in training, which must be constant to ensure readiness to respond in an emergency. The office trains for the worst-case scenarios, while hoping that they don’t happen.
The SROs in the Littleton and Cherry Creek School Districts are paid for in part by contributions from the cities, including Centennial. Cherry Hills Village and Greenwood Village also contribute for the schools in their jurisdictions.
Walcher notes that there are not just public schools in Arapahoe County. There also are 30 private schools with a total enrollment of 5,000 students. Walcher and others believe that there is a real need for SROs and that in the future there likely will be even more SROs that are assigned to schools now.
Dasso noted that the high schools served by his office each have two SROs, while the middle schools each have one. Officers assigned to elementary schools are responsible for responding to issues and situations that arise at several schools.
The sheriff acknowledges that serving as an SRO isn’t every officer’s “cup of tea,” but notes there is always competition when a position comes open for an SRO. He says that the SROs are “great role models” for the children. Their job is “not just safety and security, but also building relationships” with the students. There are 13 SROs in the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office. Walcher refers to the SRO job as “a really good gig.” Notably, the number of SRO’s has more than doubled since Walcher became sheriff.
There recently was an opening for an SRO and three officers applied for that position, the sheriff stated. He also noted that, in addition to the training provided to all the officers in Arapahoe County, the SROs receive specialized classes from the National Association of School Resource Officers.
Walcher stated that there are additional school districts in Arapahoe County, other than Littleton and CCSD. These include Byers and Deer Trail. There are 70 schools between the public-school districts and the private institutions, he said.
In response to a question about arming teachers, due to the plethora of school shootings in the United States, both Dasso and Walcher said arming teachers should not be the norm but noted that there are schools so far from help that it may make sense to have well-trained school personnel carry a weapon, due to the lengthy response time.
Dasso, who is a firearms instructor, states that “carrying a weapon is a large responsibility,” a “proficiency that requires commitment,” including the commitment to keep up with the training required to carry a gun.
Noting that some parents might try to scare their children with threats to turn them into law enforcement, Dasso believes parents should not “play that card,” but should encourage their children to look at officers as people who will help in an emergency. Dasso says some children are “a little less timid coming down the hall and giving the officer a fist bump” once they get to know an SRO.
When asked about an incident at a school when an SRO in Florida did not go in the building to stop a shooter, Dasso said that the public should know that would not happen here. The Arapahoe County SROs “would run to gunfire … to protect our community’s children.”
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