The school resource officers began patrolling schools in Elko, Spring Creek and Carlin on Jan. 5. The Elko County School District, Elko County Sheriff’s Office and Elko Police Department spent the past year raising funds to implement the program.
“This is a big deal,” said Police Chief Ben Reed. “We’ve been pushing for this for a long time.”
In their first week, the officers found drugs in cars, investigated vandalism, confiscated weapons and issued traffic tickets. The officers also worked during the weekend sporting events.
“We’ve hit the ground running,” said Sheriff Jim Pitts. “The guys have been busy, very busy.”
Superintendent Jeff Zander said having the officers in the schools will create a cultural change. Officers will develop relationships with students, parents and teachers, he said, and those relationships will change how the officers are seen in the community.
“I think over time hopefully we’re going to build support,” Zander said.
He added the school district hopes to take over funding the program in the next few years, after the federal grant money has been used.
In October, the sheriff’s office received $375,000 of grant money and the police department received $125,000 to fund a portion of the officers’ salaries over the next three years.
Pitts said the three agencies raised $262,000 for the program, which will augment the grant money budget.
The program has received a lot of community support, Reed said. He added the collaboration between the three agencies has been impressive.
Meet the Officers
Elko County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Carpenter is the program supervisor. Elko County deputies Ana Bribiesca and Shawn Sherwood and Elko police officers Mike Gustafson and Aaron Hildreth make up the rest of the team.
Carpenter, a 25-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, said he decided to apply for the position because he wanted to do something good for the children in the community.
“We’ve just been trying to be visible,” Carpenter said. “ … We’re not trying to be the bad people. We’re trying to help.”
Sherwood said he got into law enforcement to make a change for younger adults and children. He has worked at the sheriff’s office for three years, and he jumped at the opportunity to apply to be a school resource officer, he said.
Sherwood has spent some time patrolling in the Carlin schools, and he said the teachers and the students there were excited to see the officers.
“The children there have been very inviting,” he said.
At Adobe Middle School, two students approached Sherwood and asked him for help on a class project on texting and driving, he said.
Bribiesca was a school resource officer a few years ago, when the school district hired and trained its own officers. The program was nixed when the district had to make budget cuts, Zander said.
“I had a good time doing that,” Bribiesca said, adding she developed relationships with teachers and students at the time.
Bribiesca has worked at the sheriff’s office for two years.
“Hopefully, we can continue and help the kids and parents,” she said about the new program.
For now, the five officers will patrol only in Elko, Spring Creek and Carlin. Pitts said his department is working on making it possible for deputies in Wells and West Wendover to patrol the schools in those towns.