School resource officers: building relationships and protecting students

SUN photo/John Finefrock
From left to right, Deputy Dylaina Gauvey, Officer Austin Gartman and Deputy James “Bubba” Martinez are the three school resource officers that protect local schools and serve as role models for local students.

By John Finefrock
Staff Writer

For about three years, the Archuleta School District (ASD) has had partnerships with local law enforcement that has allowed school resource officers, or SROs, to help protect local schools and be role models for local students.

“Certainly, the SRO program is a very — in the sheriff’s office opinion — it’s a very important role that we play with the students,” said Archuleta County Undersheriff Derek Woodman in an interview Tuesday. “Not only as law enforcement in the schools, but they’re having additional people in schools that can act as role models, that can show that there’s nothing to be afraid of when you interact with law enforcement.”

“I believe having the school resource officers in our district is invaluable for the safety and security of the community’s students and the daily interactions of students and officers continues to reduce the gap and build the bridge with law enforcement,” wrote Pagosa Springs Police Chief Bill Rockensock in an email to The SUN.

Currently, three SROs take turns rotating at the elementary school, middle school and high school in Pagosa Springs.

The program began in 2017 with one officer.

In 2018, Archuleta County voters passed a mill levy override that expanded the SRO program, adding two more officers.

“We definitely find that relationship building has been beneficial both for the kids, so the kids not to be hesitant in approaching an officer and for just the whole feel of the place,” said ASD Assistant Superintendent Laura Mijares. “It kind of allows the academic staff — so teachers and administrators — to focus on the academics.”

The three SROs are Deputy James “Bubba” Martinez, Deputy Dylaina Gauvey, both from the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office, and Officer Austin Gartman from the Pagosa Springs Police Department.

Martinez

Martinez

Martinez grew up in Pagosa Springs, and was an athlete on the high school wrestling, track and field, and football teams at Pagosa Springs High School.

He said he “really connected to the high school and the teachers and staff” during his upbringing, and commented on what got him into law enforcement in the first place.

“I watched the town grow, I watched the people grow and what got me into law enforcement is I really cared about kids and being proactive in the community I grew up in,” Martinez said, adding, “I enjoy helping and being a good impact on individuals’ lives … I love Pagosa with everything I have.”

Martinez worked at the Archuleta County jail when it was located downtown at 449 San Juan St.

During his time there, he had the opportunity to attend the law enforcement academy, which Martinez, “jumped at,” and he continued to work at the jail while completing the five-month academy.

“I worked at [the jail at] night and went to school during the day for about five months,” he said, adding, “It was a heck of a schedule.”

He added, “I was really determined and I wanted to accomplish this, and I knew as soon as I became a patrol deputy, I’d be able to interact with our community … I always had a knack with working with kids, and enjoyed working with kids, and the school started a program where we could just come and do overtime shifts at the schools and make our presence [felt] and whatnot and — after a little bit of hard work from the commander and a few other leads in the sheriff’s office — I got the opportunity to help develop [the SRO] program. So I was the SRO by myself, rotating all three schools [in 2017].”

Now, Martinez is one of three SROs rotating between the schools.

“Unfortunately in law enforcement you see the good, the bad and the ugly, because you always respond to the worst time in their life,” Martinez said, adding that now that he’s embedded within the schools, he gets to “be a big kid” himself and play basketball or pick-up hackey sack with the kids.

Martinez said that “each school has its own personalty, and commented on each in his interview.

• Pagosa Springs Elementary School: “What we learned is the kids love coming up to you and talking and asking you anything and everything,”he said, noting that there’s “more hopscotch and jump roping.”

• Pagosa Springs Middle School: “Those kids, they’re gettin’ more mature and whatnot, but they’re all about their athletics. They’re learning life, they’ve got great sense of humors … That’s where I do a little more interacting with the kids as far as sports and athletics,” Martinez commented.

• Pagosa Springs High School: “[At the high school, they’re] starting to develop and learn who they are,” said Martinez, adding, that he “tells them about life experiences and asks them, “Hey, what are you going to do for life?”

“I can say I have so many friends and I’ve impacted so many lives, but they’ve done the same for me. They’ve brought me a great peace,” said Martinez of the students.

Gartman

Gartman

Gartman grew up in Cedaredge, Colo., which he explained is “kinda near Montrose” in an interview Monday.

He attended Fort Lewis College and earned his degree in criminology.

“Something that I like about law enforcement is the variety — how different it is everyday,” he said, adding, “ [There’s] always a different way of helping people. It gives you a sense of satisfaction, to make the entire community look better when the PD [police department] is doing its job and helping people out.”

He added, “As far as being an SRO, I really enjoy hanging out with the kids, getting to know them, getting to build that trust so that they can grow up and have a good relationship with law enforcement because I know there’s a lot of people out there that don’t have a good relationship with law enforcement. So I feel like I can make an impact through the school to help these kids grow up and know that we’re not all bad and that most of us are good people that are just trying to help.”

Gartman explained how the three SROs rotate between local schools in Pagosa Springs.

“We do monthly rotations,” he said. “Right now, I’m at the elementary school until October, then I’ll head over to the middle school for a month, then go to the high school and then start that rotation process all over again.”

Gartman is in his first year as an SRO in Pagosa Springs, and commented on what drew him to the position.

“It’s just something that I’ve been wanting to do since I was in college because I had an internship with La Plata County, so I hung out with the La Plata SROs a lot. That’s what got me interested, how La Plata guys were able to hang out with the kids and get to know them and build a relationship with them,” he said.

Gauvey

Gauvey

“Our main responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of the staff and students,” Gauvey said. “We just make sure we’re visible, the kids know that we’re here. We are checking the buildings, making sure they’re secure. Doors stick, there’s these buildings — at least at the middle school — they’re old, and even at the high school doors stick. We just make sure buildings are secure and everything is going OK.”

Prior to becoming an SRO, Gauvey was a teacher for a few years and then ultimately transitioned to law enforcement.

She has a similar experience to Martinez in that she worked at the county jail before taking the SRO role at the schools.

“I applied for the detentions position that [the sheriff’s office] had open in 2016, did that for a couple years then had the opportunity to go the academy and go to the patrol side of things,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be in law enforcement, so I jumped on that.”

Gauvey was a patrol deputy for a few years and began her role as an SRO at the beginning of this school year.

She explained she enjoys working in the community and that she gets compliments like, “Hey, if nobody told you today, thank you for your service.”

“Our main priority is safety,” Gauvey said, adding, “We’re here to make sure the schools are OK and do our best to protect our most valuable population — or one of the most valuable populations that we have — which is the next generation.”

Gauvey said that when she was teaching, she was also an athletic coach, and that being an SRO “feels like sort of a coaching position.”

This story was posted on October 7, 2020.