With the unfortunate reality that school violence is more of a threat today, the presence of law enforcement officials in schools is more widespread than ever. The Summit County Sheriff's Office says it is committed to ensuring area schools are as safe as possible.
Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds explained his office assigns a resource officer to every school district in the county.
"That officer's presence is supposed to be very conspicuous," Edmunds said. "Their role is interacting with students and getting to know them."
Officers' presence in high traffic times is also very visible, Edmunds said. During morning and afternoon ingress and egress, officers are engaged in conducting routine traffic enforcement. However, officers are also on hand for more serious reasons.
"With the proliferation of school violence in this country, it's very important to have an armed peace officer in every school that we can," Edmunds said. "We feel very strongly about that."
In the instance that a situation of school violence should break out, Edmunds said his office is ready to handle it. He says his officers have had scenario-based training at schools that is "very realistic in nature."
"We are one of the law enforcement agencies in the state that does as much [scenario-based training] as possible," Edmunds said. "We're ready to quash that violence but we'd much rather prevent it on the front end and take preventative measures."
Although Edmunds could not divulge all of the methods the Sheriff's Office uses to defend against and prepare for a potential violent incident, he did say they have well-developed tactical plans and schematics as well as access to video surveillance cameras.
"We do everything we can to make sure that the environment of school is a place where students can learn and teachers can teach," Edmunds said.
Another role the Sheriff's Office plays is in guaranteeing the safety of kids getting on and off school buses. Edmunds says the Sheriff's Department has a "zero tolerance" stance on passing a school bus when its lights are engaged. His officers will even follow school buses in unmarked cars to make sure that drivers are stopping.
Utah state law says that cars must stop on both sides of the road when it is stopped and flashing its lights. If it is a divided highway with four or more lanes, only those vehicles traveling in those lanes with the school bus are required to stop, not the traffic coming from the opposite direction.
Edmunds added that, unfortunately, every once in a while a driver will disregard a school bus' flashing lights and drive around it.
"It's a very dangerous situation when kids are loading and unloading. Young kids don't have the wherewithal to look for traffic," Edmunds said. "We issue a fair number of citations but I think Summit County residents are starting to get the message."