LOS LUNAS — The school resource officer program at Los Lunas Schools is making waves nationally after being awarded the 2023 National SRO Model Agency award from the National Association of School Resource Officers.

“It’s a major award. I was pretty excited and proud of the team because we do such an amazing job at our schools,” said Desi Garcia, the director of safety and security for LLS. “To be part of a major organization like NASRO, and to be known by them for what we do, we should all be proud, the entire community and state should be proud.”

Garcia and four fellow SROs accept the model agency award at the 2023 NASRO school safety conference. From left, Alfred Torres, SRO at Ann Parish Elementary; Carl Padilla, SRO at Valencia Middle School; Desi Garcia, LLS director of safety and security; Richard Guzman, SRO at Los Lunas Elementary; and Joe Griego, SRO at Los Lunas Middle School. Submitted photo.

NASRO is a nonprofit organization renowned as a global leader in school-based policing.

According to its website, “The goal of NASRO and SRO programs is to provide safe learning environments, provide valuable resources to school staff members, foster a positive relationship with students and develop strategies to resolve problems that affect our youth with the goal of protecting all children, so they can reach their fullest potential.”

Garcia and four of his team members were presented with the award at the annual NASRO school safety conference held in Indianapolis, Ind., in late June.

“The conference is always a major event for SROs around the country,” said Garcia. “There’s quite a bit of networking, information and equipment sharing and vendor set ups with all the latest school safety products. It hosts about 1,500 officers from throughout the world.”

In a letter addressed to the LLS police, NASRO Executive Director Mo Canady said Los Lunas School’s SRO program stood out as a shining example of commitment to NASRO’s mission.

“Your organization consistently demonstrates the triad concept: serving as mentors, educators and law enforcement officers while serving school communities in a manner that represents the best in community policing,” wrote Canady in the letter.

“We are proud of the fact that we are not only the people to go to for crime and safety reasons, but we try to help in many different categories,” said Garcia. “Our SROs are coaches, they run youth groups and they provide students with a friendly face and someone to talk to.”

Garcia says when he runs into students when he’s out and about, he asks them about their school and if they can name who their SRO officer is. He says you would be surprised how many kids can name them.

“It’s so cool to have that discussion with the little-bitty kids who know their SRO. It goes to show that we’re not just an enforcement figure on campus, but we’re the fabric of that community,” said Garcia.

Garcia says the SROs are also always looking to be innovative in the way they run their programs and in their approach to school safety.

“Our objective is to be visible and to network regularly with the student body and staff to make sure our safety plans are in order. We practice our safety procedures at the start of school year and throughout the year so we’re on top of the game and are ready for the kind of event we hope to God never happens,” said Garcia.

The SROs also keep up-to-date by partaking in regular, specialized trainings. Garcia says a large part of their success is also due to networking.

“The networking we have and provide within the community, and with all of our law enforcement and fire department partnerships, is what I think is most important about this program,” said Garcia. “We meet on a regular basis to talk about different trends and issues going on within our campus and it allows us the opportunity to see faces and know who they are. That way if we have an issue and need a resource we can go to them directly without having to jump through hoops.”

LLS is the only school district in the state that has an SRO on every campus. Currently, there are 21 SROs across 15 campuses.

Garcia said he and his team get questioned regularly from agencies and school districts across the state asking how the SRO program has gotten to where it is now.

“It’s not about how we did it, it’s about the way the district spends its resources that provide those officers at every school site,” said Garcia. “The question is what’s the value of one kid? And LLS puts their money where their mouth is. Safety is their priority and this is an award that took the assistance of everybody in our law enforcement partnership community.”

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Felina Martinez News-Bulletin Writer

Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.