The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) presented its Floyd Ledbetter National School Resource Officer of the Year Award to two police officers — one from California and one from Rhode Island. The annual award recognizes school resource officers (SROs; specially trained law enforcement officers assigned to work in schools) who have made specific and significant contributions to their local communities and/or school districts.
This year, NASRO presented its SRO of the Year award to two recipients: Officer Lorenzo Beltran of the Ceres (CA) Police Department and Officer Richard Parenti of the Scituate (RI) Police Department.
NASRO presented the awards Monday afternoon during a ceremony as part of its annual National School Safety Conference. At least 2,100 police officers, educators, and others are receiving specialized training and information at the conference this week in Pigeon Forge, TN.
Beltran serves as SRO at Central Valley High School. "Nomination letters for Officer Beltran describe an SRO who consistently goes well beyond the call of duty to assure the safety and well-being of Ceres students," said Mo Canady, NASRO's executive director. "Two examples in particular impressed our awards committee. The first is Officer Beltran's initiative to create new evacuation plans for all 21 of the school district's campuses, complete with color-coded floor plans. In the second, Officer Beltran used personal funds to buy shoes for a needy student, to enable him to comply with his school's dress code."
Beltran's nomination letters also mentioned many other accomplishments, including:
• Personally training every teacher in the school district on proper tourniquet use.
• Assuring that every classroom in the district had an appropriate first aid kit.
• On his own time, establishing and acting as advisor for a Criminal Justice Club at his school, in which more than 100 students participated.
• Generally developing strong, positive, mentorship relations with students, which was demonstrated during 2018 commencement ceremonies, when student after student left the procession line to shake Officer Beltran's hand and to thank him.
Parenti serves as SRO at the Scituate School Department. "One of the most important things a good SRO does is build positive relationships, and Officer Parenti has taken that to a new level," Canady said. "A visible example is his initiation of a program called, 'High-Five Fridays.' After a member of the high school football team took his own life, Officer Parenti created the program to give team members a new focus. Wearing their uniforms, the team lined up outside an elementary school on Friday mornings and greeted the younger students with high-fives as they entered for the day. Other school systems have since adopted Parenti's High-Five Fridays."
Nomination letters also mentioned many other noteworthy actions by Parenti, including:
• Finding ways to encourage students to visit his office socially, including contests and an always-available jar of Starburst candy.
• Helping to reduce student arrests by 58% over one year.
• Establishing a security code system for various threats that included "shelter in place," "restricted movement," and "lock down."
• Analyzing and changing morning arrival routines at the high school to remove all unmonitored access points.
During the awards ceremony, NASRO bestowed its National Award of Valor upon four SROs in recognition of their specific acts of courage and valor:
• Officers Brian Hill and Scott Jimenez, Mesquite Police Department, Mesquite, Texas. In October 2018, Hill and Jimenez entered a burning school bus after a crash and worked to protect and rescue a trapped, 12-year-old girl. They fought valiantly for five minutes, until the bus became engulfed in flames and smoke, forcing them to make the difficult decision to abandon their efforts. The girl perished. It was later discovered that Jimenez suffered a heart attack during the incident.
• Officers Aaron Johns and Steve Timm, Eugene Police Department, Eugene, Oregon. In January 2019, a man at a Eugene middle school fired two shots from a 9mm handgun while officers Johns and Timm attempted to arrest him for disorderly conduct, following a custody dispute at the school. To protect the lives of both officers and others inside the school, Officer Timm returned fire, fatally wounding the assailant.
In addition to those listed above, NASRO presented the following awards at the ceremony:
Presidential Citation for special recognition from the NASRO president: Officer Michael Steffen, Noblesville Police Department, Noblesville, Indiana.
Chief Nicholas C. Derzis Safe Schools Leadership Award for contributions and dedication to a school resource officer (SRO) program: Monica Merritt, Superintendent, Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, Plymouth, Michigan.
Regional Exceptional Service Award for continuous and sustained service to the school community above and beyond that normally expected of an SRO:
• Officer Danny Baker, Conover Police Dept., Conover, North Carolina.
• Officer Chris Bryant, Hoover Police Dept., Hoover, Alabama.
• Sgt. Ray Chumbler, Marshall County Sheriff's Dept., Benton, Kentucky.
• Officer Kelly DeJonge, Glendale Police Dept., Glendale, Wisconsin.
• Officer Nancy Gallegos, Hanford Police Dept., Hanford, California.
• Officer Adam Gau, Isanti Police Dept., Isanti, Minnesota.
• Officer Michael Mooney, Maryland Heights Police Dept., Maryland Heights, Missouri.
• Cpl. Matt Owens, Delaware State Police Dept., Newark, Delaware.
• Officer Richard Stephens, Kiskiminetas Township Police Dept., Apollo, Pennsylvania.
Model SRO Agency Award for exemplifying in training, policies and standards the NASRO triad concept, which describes an SRO's role as mentor, guest lecturer and law enforcement officer. Model agencies also demonstrate creative and innovative approaches to school-based policing:
• McKinney (TX) Police Department
• Noblesville (IN) Police Department
• Center Grove (IN) Police Department
For more information about NASRO, visit www.nasro.org.