OV Town Talk: Welcome back students, teachers and staff!

Published on August 11, 2021

Police Chief Kara M. Riley Profile Photo

By OVPD Chief Kara Riley

For well over 30 years, the Oro Valley Police Department (OVPD) has had a long-standing tradition of having school resource officers (SROs) in our schools. Although some of the curriculum and philosophy has changed over the years, the one thing that has always stayed constant is this community’s commitment to its children. OVPD has a robust SRO program and I want to take the opportunity to showcase this amazing program and the outstanding law enforcement professionals who serve your schools, youth, teachers and administrators.

OVPD has a triad approach when it comes to the SRO program: teacher, mentor and law enforcement officer. Our officers go into the classrooms and teach about topics that are trending and challenging to our youth. In addition, teachers provide subjects for the SROs to teach, such as the effects of drugs, distracted driving and cyberbullying.

At times, our SROs are mentors for our children, assisting them through a crisis in their lives like divorcing parents, loss of a loved one or simply how to make good choices in the face of peer pressure.

The final prong to the triad approach is the law enforcement portion. OVPD is committed to keeping our youth safe from any potential threats and teaching our kids what to do during dangerous situations.

The leadership at OVPD encourages all our officers to think outside the box when it comes to being creative in serving the community. The SRO program is no different. Here are some wonderful examples of programs our SROs have started:

  • Officer Greg Chmara created a video series called “Hanging with Officer Greg.” He did this during the pandemic so teachers had a series of videos they could show children while they were teaching virtually. Topics range from backpack safety, desert creatures and—coming soon—“ask the police chief.”
  • Officer Vivian Lopez created the Junior Police Officer program. Kids learn about playground safety and anti-bullying strategies. It also teaches children that police officers are there to help people in their time of need. After six weeks in the program, there is a graduation ceremony for the group, followed promptly by the next group of junior police officers.
  • Officer Andrea Keena created a poster competition. Students are given a different topic each year. They then create a poster about the topic and the top three winners receive a certificate. This allows Officer Keena to engage with the children as they are creating their posters, teaching them while encouraging creativity.

The SROs spend a great deal of time and resources ensuring school campuses are safe, while also being highly visible and engaged with students and faculty. This includes the community’s safety during school hours. Now that school is back in session, we want to remind everyone to take extra time wherever you are driving in town. Traffic congestion increases, especially during the morning and afternoon hours. Also, be on the lookout for school buses stopping to pick up/drop off students.

In closing, I have a message for students: As you return to school, these officers are so excited to see “their kids.” It has been a tough year being away from the schools and not seeing your teachers, friends and SROs. We have missed each and every one of you over the past year and are looking forward to seeing your smiling faces. Just remember OVPD SROs are part of your school’s family, and we are thrilled to say welcome back!


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