With a projected budget gap of more than $9 billion, New York state has cut dozens of resource officers from public schools. Salmon River High School is one of them, but it won’t be without an in-house police officer this year.
The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe (SRMT) has provided funding of almost $120,000 and an officer from its own police force to be the School Resource Officer (SRO) at the Salmon River School District near the tribe’s Akwesasne Territory.
Corporal Martin Jock, an SRMT member, was recently sworn in by Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne; SRMT Chief of Police Andrew Thomas witnessed the event.
“We’re pleased and happy to fill this important position,” Thomas said. “Marty has the right personality for this job and I’m sure will be successful in carrying out those duties.”
Asked what the police chief meant by “the right personality for the job,” Jock laughed and said, “Well, I guess I’m pretty easy going, but when I have to be, I’m hard.”
The SRO acts as a liaison between students, families, teachers and educational administrators, providing law enforcement when needed, student counseling, and law-related education.
Jock joined the SRMT police department in 1999 and worked previously as the program manager and an Emergency Medical Technician for the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne’s Ambulance Unit.
His duties will include providing safety and security to all areas of the school, making appropriate arrests when needed and referrals for “PINS” – Persons In Need of Supervision – and providing a visible resource for students and faculty.
Visibility is key to being an effective SRO, Jock said.
“Mainly, it’s showing a presence at school to act as a deterrent,” Jock said. “I’ve completed one week and so far I’ve had a few issues, but they’ve been corrected.”
There aren’t a lot of legal problems at the Salmon River School, Jock said.
“The school has its own disciplinary procedures. The school has a ‘penalty box’ it might put students in if there’s a disciplinary issue.”
The ‘penalty box’ is not as torturous as it sounds. It’s simply a time-out room where students are required to continue their regular school work, but are isolated from interacting with the rest of the student body.
St. Regis’ three tribal chiefs said it was important to maintain an SRO presence in the Salmon River School District, a K-12 system that includes an elementary school, a middle school and a high school.
“Almost 70 percent of students in the Salmon River School District are Mohawk,” St. Regis Tribal Chief Monica Jacobs said. “The School Resource Officer plays an important role in the learning experience of all students in the district, not just the Mohawk students.”
St. Regis is a major contributor to the local and state economy. Revenues from the tribe’s three gaming operations have bolstered the regional economy, making the tribe the fifth largest employer in northern New York. A recent economic impact study reported that the tribe’s direct revenue sharing from its gaming enterprises contributed more than $13 million to the state economy in 2008.
“The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe is a good neighbor,” said St. Regis Tribal Chief Randy Hart. “This is another example of how we are able to provide the support to meet a need. This position provides benefits to each and every student and staff person in the school district.”
“This again demonstrates our commitment to providing a safe and secure community and school environment,” said St. Regis Tribal Chief Mark Garrow.
The Salmon River School had an SRO for several years, but state funding for the position was withdrawn last year. The tribe stepped in to provide the financial support to continue this position at least for the 2011 fiscal year.
The former SRO at Salmon River school was provided by State Police Troop B in nearby Malone, N.Y.
“We had 90 SROs across the state and they cut them all because of the financial problems,” said Troop B Captain Michael Girard.
Girard, who knows Jock and other officers from SRMT, because they work together on law enforcement issues, said some sheriffs’ offices may have some SROs in place in public schools.
“But as far as I know the only one in Troop B is the one at Salmon River that has Marty Jock up there. I’m sure he’ll do a really good job,” Girard said.