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SRO Underwood has dream job at Niwot High

 

January 29, 2020

Courtesy Photo

When it comes to school security, SROs like Niwot's Officer Underwood are working hard. "We're always going to look at everything from different angles to see what works best for the community"

Imagine this: it's baseball season for Colorado schools and ball fields across the state are filled with young boys, eager to play the game they love. But one such field in Arvada is a little different than the others--that's because many of the coaches are officers with the Arvada Police Department and they use their radar guns to measure pitch speeds.

Boulder County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Underwood credits this early exposure to law enforcement for some of his initial interest in the profession. In high school, he would go on ride-alongs with officers and his father knew many officers who spoke about the profession.

Then, "In 2014, my mom died and I wanted to make a difference. I thought, at the time, I had the maturity and physical and mental capacity to do it [become a police officer]," Underwood said.

With that goal in mind, Underwood realized that he wanted to work in schools. Drawing on his own positive experience in high school, and thanks to some encouragement from friends who had experience as SROs at other schools, he decided to apply to the police academy and become an SRO.

"SRO" stands for "school resource officer," and repeatedly, Underwood said that he wants to be a resource for the kids at Niwot. "My door's always open. If parents have questions, come to me directly...I spend my time getting to know as many kids as I can, so that I'm a resource."

He is certainly acting in that capacity for Niwot High's students, and the teachers too. For the past two-and-a-half years he has been at Niwot, not only does Officer Underwood do standard patrols, but he also goes into classrooms. His classroom teaching extends past the usual health class talks on drugs and safety. In fact, he is also sometimes be asked to go into history classes, for example, and discuss current events from a law enforcement perspective.

"It's very rewarding, it's a different type of policing," Underwood explained. "It's very unique and takes a very specific type of officer to be a successful SRO."

Niwot High is Officer Underwood's first assignment since graduating from the police academy, and he expressed a lot of gratitude for having this opportunity come so soon in his career. He hopes to be able to stay on the staff for as long as possible, especially so that he can further develop relationships with students.

"[It's exciting] watching kids mature," he said. "To watch kids grow in such a positive way, I hope I get to be an influence in that."

However, despite the fact that Officer Underwood enjoys his job and, for the most part, is able to focus on building relationships with students, it is important to remember that his position at Niwot High is to provide safety for the campus.

"Some people are a little bothered that there's an armed officer in the school, others love it," he said. Underwood went on to explain that he is always on the alert, looking for ways to make sure that students and staff feel safe. He, along with the other Boulder County SROs, are constantly facilitating dialogue between the district and law enforcement. "I think about it [school safety] way more often than the students and staff realize."

Much of the discussion around school safety has come from the frequency of potential threats to schools. Niwot High had a bomb threat only last month. In response, school districts nationwide, including SVVSD, have been constantly trying to improve safety procedures and resources, which has included an increase in the number of SROs the district employs.

"I think they've [SVVSD] done a very good job working with us [law enforcement]. We love that partnership...the security world of schools is always evolving, and all we really want is that open dialogue and partnership [between districts and law enforcement]."

 

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