Brewer’s presence on campus caps a years-long effort by members of the school district to have a police officer solely dedicated to the schools. According to Helen M. Knight Elementary School Principal Taryn Kay, members of the district’s interagency School Safety Committee have been working toward that goal for at least five years.
“We didn’t have any money historically to hire one on our own,” Kay said.
She said the school district had approached both the Moab Police Department and the Grand County Sheriff’s Department in the past.
“They were both supportive of the idea, but no one entity had the money to do it at the time,” she said.
Grand County School Superintendent Scott Crane said Brewer’s new duties are not related to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“It’s just a terrible coincidence,” Crane said, adding that the process has been ongoing since July. “Our goal was to have someone at the schools on the first day of school in January.”
A news release from the involved agencies states that the committee, which includes school staff, law enforcement, fire, EMS, hospital, other officials and parents has been active for more than 15 years.
Grand County Sheriff Steve White said providing the schools with an SRO is a goal he has been working toward for some time.
“It was one of the main issues I wanted to address when I got into office,” he said. White said that the sheriff’s department was able to restructure its scheduling to accommodate placing a full-time employee in the schools.
White’s office teamed up with the Juvenile Justice Office and school administrators to conduct interviews to help identify the right person for the job.
“I’m really excited to have Deputy Brewer on board,” Crane said. “A position like this is very dependent on the person you put into it, and I’m looking forward to working with him ... It was time for us to do it in Moab.”
Brewer said he has established an office at Grand County High School, where he will spend most of his time. “It’s open to everyone,” he said.
In addition to the safety benefits of his presence on campus, Brewer said he is hoping to build a positive rapport with the students.
“I told them, ‘This is your school. You have to be vigilant and report things,’” Brewer said.
Brewer will handle issues at any of the schools that fall outside of the scope of those schools. He said he hopes, in time, students will grow to trust him enough to talk to him if any sort of situation arises. For some students, that seems to be happening already. Brewer said that, even though he’s only been at the schools since Jan. 7, he’s already getting high-fives from students.
White said Brewer will also help the schools go through security plans, as well as teaching some classes, such as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program and certain government classes. Brewer said one teacher had already approached him about talking to a class about gun violence.
“I’m excited about it,” White said. “It’s a huge step towards our kids’ safety.” White cited an active shooter drill that was done last year at the high school. During the needs assessment that followed, an SRO was identified as being highly beneficial.
Brewer said he’s excited to be there as well and he has been busy. Last week, he had lunch with fourth grade students at HMK.
“They had about a thousand questions,” he said. “They want to know about my uniform, my badge, what I carry on my belt.”
Kay said that, although it’s not necessarily that obvious when Brewer is at the schools, the students get really excited when they see him there. For the time being, Brewer will be on call to the elementary and middle schools as needed.
“We’re still in the process of defining what his role will be here,” Kay said. “He’s offered to fill whatever role we need him to.”
Brewer also went to the middle school last week to participate in an assembly for seventh graders, and then went around to the eighth grade classes to introduce himself. He also played in a faculty and staff basketball game at the high school.
“I’m already relaxing around the kids, and they’re already kind of relaxing around me,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a good thing, hopefully for years to come.”
Brewer’s appointment is a joint effort supported by the Grand County School District, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office and the Moab Police Department, officials said.