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School board considers safety solution

Staff Writer

During a work session before its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, the Archuleta School District Board of Education heard a presentation on the Rocky Mountain Guardian Angels (RMGA) from Rob Ring and Del McFarland.

Ring is the superintendent of the Weld County RE-9 school district and McFarland is one of the founders of RMGA, a nonprofit group of armed, off-duty officers from the Colorado State Patrol (CSP) who patrol schools in the towns of Ault and Pierce, Colo.

The group includes four other police officers so far, and as the organization continues to expand, McFarland plans to recruit and train local, off-duty police officers to patrol the local schools.

McFarland began his presentation by showing a 10-minute video, a compilation of news reports from the incidents at Columbine, Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech, among several others.

When the video finished, McFarland said, “It’s not a matter of if; it’s just a matter of when. It is going to happen again in Colorado. I don’t want it to be this school. I don’t want it to be any school, but the bottom line is it is going to happen again.”

McFarland also explained how in the Arapahoe County incident, the shooter was able to kill one person and injure several others in less than 80 seconds before the school resource officer (SRO), who was on duty in the building at the time, was able to stop him.

McFarland then outlined the history of school shootings in the United States, dating back to the first documented incident in 1764. The numbers indicated an increasing frequency of events.

According to their website, “The mission of the Rocky Mountain Guardian Angels is to safeguard and protect the children of our communities from violence, neglect, abuse and exploitation, as well as to launch programs designed to empower the youth of our communities, by utilizing highly trained armed police officers. Our Children are this country’s most valuable resource and the Rocky Mountain Guardian Angels is dedicated to protecting that resource at all costs.”

McFarland clarified that if the board decided to employ their services, the RMGA would be a force multiplier, acting as a backup for any existing SRO the schools might already be employing.

So far, the school district does not have an SRO.

Last summer, Pagosa Springs Police Chief William Rockensock applied for a grant from the federal COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) program that would have allowed his department to hire a full time SRO for three years. When that grant was denied, Rockensock vowed to continue searching for a way to get an SRO for the district.

Last month, Reed reported that Archuleta County Undersheriff Rich Valdez had offered to allow one of his deputies to act as a part-time SRO at the high school and middle school. However, the officer could only be freed up from his other duties for five or six hours per week, Reed reported.

Valdez was present at Tuesday’s meeting and expressed an interest in working with McFarland’s organization. Other members of law enforcement present included Brian Vining from CSP, T. J. Fitzwater from Pagosa Springs Police Department and Jacob Beach from Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office. Each officer also express a willingness to get involved.

Later, during the board’s regular meeting, board member Bruce Dryburgh expressed interest in hiring RMGA and asked McFarland to submit a written proposal outlining the costs and details on the services his group would provide.

ed.fincher@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on February 13, 2014.