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The M.O. for the SRO

The who, what, and why of Central’s new school officer

New+School+Resource+Officer+Travis+Layton+directs+after-school+traffic.+This+is+on+of+the+many+duties+an+SRO+will+perform.
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The M.O. for the SRO

New School Resource Officer Travis Layton directs after-school traffic. This is on of the many duties an SRO will perform.

New School Resource Officer Travis Layton directs after-school traffic. This is on of the many duties an SRO will perform.

Lee Foust

New School Resource Officer Travis Layton directs after-school traffic. This is on of the many duties an SRO will perform.

Lee Foust

Lee Foust

New School Resource Officer Travis Layton directs after-school traffic. This is on of the many duties an SRO will perform.

Lee Foust, Staff Writer

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As the 2018-2019 school year begins, there’s a major personnel change taking place. The new SRO hire Travis Layton has stepped in to fill the shoes of former officer Caswell. For many students, this will be the first time a shift in the SRO position has occurred while they were in school. Any student who attended the school before this year will be familiar with Caswell, who was employed as Central’s SRO for five years.

“I understand kids having questions: the SRO is not a permanent assignment, and never has been,” Principal Tim McCarthy said. “That role changes and the assignment changes.”

While Caswell was widely loved by the student body, the position of SRO has a relatively quick turnaround and it was time for a new hire. The hiring process itself is relatively simple.

“It really starts with the Chesterfield PD, it’s their employee, they hire with consultation from us,” McCarthy said. The police department approaches the school saying, “‘So these are the candidates we have, can you talk with these individuals’”

But this relatively simple process of application, interview, and hire was a little different for Officer Layton.

“About a year ago now, I was selected to be an elementary school SRO, but due to manpower issues that move couldn’t be made at the time,” Layton said. “[Central] didn’t have time to go through that whole process so they approached a few people and I volunteered to come to the high school instead of the middle school.”

Now that Officer Layton is here, though, there are a few different jobs he must take on around the school.

“When you come to the school there are things you’re supposed to do like provide security against any kind of threat, things like that, take law enforcement action when necessary,” Layton said. “But a lot of it is communicating with the administrators and staff to know what is it they need and do what you can to fulfill those needs.”

Besides just these daily duties, there’s another, more personal facet of an SRO’s job. While the main purpose is to maintain a safe school environment, the job’s impact digs a little deeper.

“I think that comes back to the second purpose of the SRO position which is really, early on, helping young people develop a positive relationship with a law enforcement officer,” McCarthy said.

The school resource officer is very different from many other police jobs, in that a lot of communication is required when deciding to take action. Out in the field, it’s almost entirely up to the officer’s discretion as to how a situation is handled. In a school environment, this independence is far more limited.

“Depending on who’s involved, the severity of it, things can be handled either at a school level, or if it’s severe enough, like a chronic problem or something like that, the decision may be made to not only take action from the schools standpoint but on a criminal and police standpoint as well,” Layton said.

All in all, being an SRO is a very important and multifaceted job, with a key place here in Central. They not only keep Central a safe learning environment but also help create strong bonds in the community with law enforcement.

“Schools aren’t prisons and sometimes that can be a fine line, and so having an SRO who is present and visible without being overbearing [is important],” McCarthy said.

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