Ignacio schools and police work together, student safety top priority for district

Ignacio School Resource Officer, Preston Rea is an officer of the Ignacio Police Department who focuses on creating a safe school environment in the district for all students, teachers and staff.
Ignacio Police Officer Rea has served the community as a School Resource Officer for the past four years in Durango, Colo. and the past two years in Ignacio, Colo. He patrols the Ignacio High, Middle and Elementary schools.
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum

Ignacio’s very own, Preston Rea has served the community through 20 years of service as a law enforcement officer. Last year, Rea stepped into a new position created by the Ignacio School District and Police Department as a School Resource Officer (SRO). The district is currently working with the police department to add a second SRO because of the success the program has had so far.

Rea began his career with the Southern Ute Police Department in 1999 as an officer and left that position in 2005 when he started working with the Durango Police Department. “I worked on the SWAT teams for both agencies and was a front-line supervisor for both as well—so I’ve had a lot of specialized training through them,” Rea explained. A portion of his training include active shooter drills, mass shooting incidents and a 40-hour SRO class.

The Colorado Association of School Recourse Officers hosts an Annual conference that Rea attends so he can receive the latest trainings and law enforcment updates. “This past conference, myself and another officer attended, and were certified in a ‘Stop the Bleeders’ training that we are now implementing in the district,” Rea stated. The association’s mission is to promote and facilitate training and communication among school resource officers, educators and school security for use in providing safe and secure learning environments for the students of the State of Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Region.

As an SRO, Rea’s main purpose is to provide a safe school environment for students and educators so they can achieve their full potential. “I love hanging out in the elementary school, the little kids will run up to me and ask a bunch of questions about my job — they’re just fun,” Rea expressed. In his position it’s necessary to work in close contact with students, so positive relationships can be built and in turn delinquency can be prevented. He is also in charge of developing crime prevention programs that deter criminal activity in the school.

“Often times we encounter people that are in crisis and this [SRO Program] gives us an opportunity to do just the opposite—we’re human beings too and this helps show that the students can come to us if they need help,” stated Ignacio Police Chief, Kirk Phillips. By having a visible presence in the school community, it has eased the minds of students and staff and serves as a deterrent for possible attacks or fights.

Rea is an armed police officer who wears a uniform and drives a marked car. He has a close partnership with the school administration is often asked to assist school officials in enforcing policies and procedures and is present during school searches for the safety of students and administrators.

“Through the forward and progressive thinking of the district they advocated for a second resource officer to help cover all their schools. We have ads currently open for a new officer so we can make the transfer,” Chief Phillips said. The SRO’s will not only provide students with guidance and support they are there to promote the police profession and be a positive role model.

“A huge portion of the SRO’s position is to have a visible presence—not only does this reduce parent’s anxiety it gives the students and staff a huge impression of safety,” Rea said. By increasing the visibility and accessibility of police officers in the school community students will have the opportunity to question and understand the role that police officers serve in society.

By seeking the help of law enforcement to promote school safety the Ignacio School District has set a standard of protection for their students that will only increase. The SRO program is implemented and sustained through an organized and comprehensive process that has helped prevent school-based violence, connects at-risk students to needed services, diverts youth from juvenile court and creates the safe school environments that exist today.

The police department has worked closely with the school district in implementing as many additional safety measures as Officer Rea deems necessary. “The district has always had the forward thought to protect their students and it shows—this is an ongoing process and we want to be there with them each step of the way,” Chief Phillips expressed.

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