Paso Robles High School adds resource officer, other safety measures

Posted at 6:05 PM, Aug 30, 2018

New safety measures are being taken at Paso Robles High School.

This includes a new school resource officer that’s been hired to patrol the campus.

Officer Joe Leonard started on the job four days ago. He’s been with the Paso Robles Police Department for more than a decade.

He will no longer respond to calls with the department and instead will work at the high school full-time.

"Full-time police officer, police car on campus. We have a designated office space for him," said Chris Williams, Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Superintendent.

"They want to come up to me, shake my hand, get to know me, find out, ‘what are you doing here? Is everything okay?’ And once they find out I’m the new school resource officer, it seems a lot of people have been really excited and happy with that," Officer Leonard said about this interaction with the students. 

The last time the high school had a school resource officer was during the 2011-2012 school year but that position was cut due to funding.

It’s been on the school district’s radar ever since.

"So we’ve been having discussions over the last year and the city’s able to commit to pay a portion of the salary and cost as well as the district paying the other portion of salary and cost," Williams said.

"I’m excited that it’s back," said Chief Ty Lewis of the Paso Robles Police Department. "It’s way overdue. I hope someday that it expands and that we have more of them."

Officer Leonard will work from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. 

With more than ten years of experience with Paso Robles PD, he’s had a chance to do a lot of different things. He’s worked with firearms instruction, Taser, and baton. He’s been an instructor with the police department in a number of different things but he says he’s always wanted to work with kids.

"This seems like a perfect opportunity to come down and actually meet kids, be a part of their life, mentor them," Officer Leonard said.

The school district has also taken other safety measures this school year.

"We’ve been very proactive from last year to this year by adding new camera systems," Williams said.

About 15 cameras went up to provide a 24/7 eye in the sky.

"It can provide you some really good resources in case there might be further investigations that are needed or potential identification of a suspect as you’re looking through situations or if you just want to validate situations that might have happened on your campuses," Williams added.

Williams went on to say that the cameras are not in response to events last year on campus ranging from gun scares and student threats to scuffles.

He says the technology has actually been on the priority list of his student advisory board for a while.

"Our students actually came up with the idea about two and a half years ago and they said we think that cameras would be really important," Williams said.

Also new this school year is fencing to enclose some spots that are open, all to ensure further safety on campus. Every school in the district was fenced around four years ago but some areas were not covered at the time.

A Dean of Students of Culture has been added to the mix this year, too.

The district’s long-time school resource officer who is a retired officer, Bob Valasquez, will spend more time at the elementary and middle schools and also at the district’s new community day school.

Over 800 of the staff members in the school district have done a four-hour training course on an active shooter. Students will also be trained in case there is a crisis on campus.

"We want to ensure that we’re providing the necessary support and also being proactive to teach kids on how to deal with situations," Williams concluded.