Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Pima schools will have a full-time resource officer on campus when school starts Aug. 1.
By Jon Johnson
PIMA – When students return to the Pima schools Aug. 1 they will have a new addition in the form of resource officer Tony Reynolds.
Pima Town Manager Sean Lewis began discussions with Pima Superintendant Sean Rickert about placing an officer in the schools after the Florida school shooting incident Feb. 14 that killed 17 students and staff members at Stoneman Douglas High School and injured 17 others. While the shooting prompted the discussion, having a resource officer at the school will be valuable for numerous reasons, according to Lewis.
“He’ll do drug and different trainings at the elementary and junior high, but his focus will be at the high school,” Lewis said. “To me, it’s kind of the responsible thing to do. When you look at the different things that have happened nationwide – the shootings – that’s definitely a concern. And also when you look at the opioid epidemic that’s going on in the country, and especially in our state and Graham County, I think we need more education about that in our schools.”
Lewis said officer Reynolds’ office will be at the high school but he will be allowed to rove around between schools as he will be there full time, 10 hours a day, four days a week. Pima schools run on a four-day school week.
Rickert said he was pleased to welcome officer Reynolds to the team.
”Having a resource officer on campus increases student safety and it also opens up communication opportunities for students who see something and want to say something,” Rickert said.
While having an armed, trained police officer at the school would be beneficial in case of a shooting, Lewis said officer Reynolds’ presence at the school is even more beneficial in an educational mode to teach the students about the dangers of heroin and for safety reasons regarding everyday occurrences.
”Having an officer there, just increases the safety and increases the education, and it’s worth the investment,” Lewis said.
Officer Reynolds will remain a town employee and will be paid by the town, while the school will help out with his benefit package, according to Lewis. Pima is putting officer candidate Billy Masten through a police academy so it will not have a depleted police department with the relocation of officer Reynolds to the school.
Safford also has a school resource officer, Luke Arbizo, and Graham County has had and is looking at placing a deputy at Fort Thomas’ junior high and high school facility.
According to Thatcher Police Chief Shaffen Woods, Thatcher used to have a resource officer but the position was lost when grant funding dried up several years ago. Woods said he requests his officers to periodically stop by Thatcher schools during their shifts to have a law enforcement presence on campus from time to time and that they also participate in educational programs, including driver’s education.