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Cops for kids

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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Officer Steve Burkey hasn’t written many tickets lately. In fact, he doesn’t write tickets at all anymore.He’s still a cop, he just has a different position. Instead of patrolling the streets he now patrols the halls at the Glenwood Springs High School. And he loves every minute of his job.”We aren’t security officers and we aren’t truancy officers, either,” Burkey said. “But we do address those issues, too.”That’s why he likes his current position. He’s still employed by the Glenwood Springs Police Department and is still a police officer, but Burkey is one of four Student Resource Officers for the Roaring Fork School District. The GSPD employs two officers for the district with officer Rob Santos manning the halls at the Glenwood Springs Middle School. Together the two patrol all of the schools in town, including the elementary schools.”It’s a multifaceted position,” Burkey said. “I’m a police officer first, this is a special assignment position just like a detective or a drug task-force officer.”

Only, with his job, he has the responsibility of keeping the high school students safe. He also feels like this is an opportunity to reach the kids before they get into trouble.”In a rewarding sense, I have the ability to help somebody besides just writing a ticket or arresting them. Not to take away from patrol officers and what they do, because their jobs are just as important. But for me this is the most rewarding job that I’ve had.”Burkey is responsible for making the school as safe as possible while still allowing it to be accessible. He claims that the only person who knows the building as well as him is the school’s janitor.”I know every nook and cranny in the school,” he said. “It’s part of what I do on a daily basis. I try to find what could be better and how to make the building more secure.”He also trains the faculty in what to do in case of an emergency or how to deal with a situation in case he is not at the school when something happens.”The security comes from the faculty and the administration,” he said. “It’s part of my job to ensure that they know how to do it.”

In certain circumstances, Burkey may have to be out of the school. That is when the school’s faculty takes action.On Wednesday, Oct. 25, Burkey was called to duty as part of the Garfield County’s All Hazards Response Team, of which he is still a member, to assist in the search for Steven Appl, the man suspected in the shooting of Colorado State Patrol officer Brian Koch. The Re-1 schools were on a “soft lockdown,” during that time and the faculty followed protocol during the situation to ensure the safety of the students in Burkey’s absence.”They did a good job that day,” he said. “I would have stepped it up even further if I’d thought they were at greater risk.”Besides training the faculty, he also gets to spend time teaching the students. Students learn about domestic violence, drug awareness, sexual assault, DUI, and other issues that they may have to confront.”We try to teach the students anything that they may have to deal with on a daily basis,” he said. “The school is a small community within the community, and we try to get to them before they get into trouble and become part of the legal system.”He considers himself a bit of a counselor. Some students may feel more comfortable coming to him with a problem than another adult. It’s all just part of the job, but it doesn’t stop there. Burkey said that the boundaries of the job stretch well past the school into the community because, first and foremost, they are police officers.



“We are a resource for the students, faculty and the parents in the community as well,” he said.The school resource position has been around for about 12 years Burkey estimated. According to Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson, the job is paid for by the police department, and the school district reimburses the city for a portion of the officers’ salaries.Burkey has been with the Glenwood Springs Police Department for the last 10 years, five as the student resource officer. Before that he spent time as a traffic cop and a patrol officer. After graduating from the Colorado Mountain College he worked for the Garfield County Sheriff’s office for five years.Contact John Gardner: 945-8515, ext. 16604jgardner@postindependent.com


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