After Tasing, Police Here to Stay in Española Schools

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Jeremy Barnes on phone

Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Barnes (right) talked on the phone to multiple people after he used a Taser on a 15-year-old Española Valley High School student May 10. One of the multiple calls he placed was to David Lujan who is in charge of school security. After Barnes informed him of the situation, Lujan asked jovially if the student had urinated on himself when tased.

Española School District officials will review a new agreement between the District and whichever law enforcement agency will employ a police officer to work in the schools.

The new agreement, formalized in a Memorandum of Understanding, comes three months after Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jeremy Barnes tased an Española Valley High School student, causing a backlash against the Sheriff’s Office and the District, particularly because Barnes had not received any of the training the memorandum required him to take, according to previous Rio Grande SUN stories.

The trainings listed in the Memorandum include working with children with disabilities, bully prevention, and child and adolescent development psychology.

While similar to its previous iteration, the new agreement includes new language and requirements for a school resource officer working for the District.

For example, the law enforcement agency will now be required to submit all of the officer’s training and employment records before they can begin working at the school. Previously, no such requirement existed.

The new language also specifies the types of incidents school resource officers are allowed to oversee. The Memorandum mandates that the officer maintain the law on school grounds while not “interfering with the District’s disciplinary process for minor infractions.”

What remains unknown, at least officially, is which law enforcement agency will have an officer working at the school and how much the agency will be paid.

Sheriff’s Office Maj. Randy Sanches said in a phone interview Monday that the District has not reached out to the Office about signing a new memorandum. Conversely, Española Police Department (EPD) interim chief Roger Jimenez wrote on Aug. 2 that his Department has been in discussion with the District.

“Yes, it is being considered by EPD with the schools,” he wrote. “We have not seen the (Memorandum) or reviewed it yet, though.”

Since the interview, Jimenez has seen the draft memorandum posted on the District’s website.

District Safety and Security Manager Donald Lopez previously told the Española School Board they could not hire a New Mexico State Police officer to work at the schools, since State Police do not provide school resource officers.

The agenda for Wednesday’s Board meeting included multiple other topics concerning safety at the schools.

Lopez was expected to present a new standard operating procedure for security guards at the District. The procedure, if approved, will include a new position of Safety and Security Lead Officer. The duties described in the procedure for the position involve overseeing other security personnel, while coordinating with law enforcement.

The procedure allows security personnel to detain students if they constitute an immediate threat or if it falls in line with District policy on physically searching and arresting students.

While security can use physical force, the procedure states this can only be implemented after all non-physical options have been exhausted. However, the procedure also allows security officers to use their “professional judgment” of the severity of the situation to determine what degree of force they use.

Lopez said he had no comment about the new memorandum or the security procedure.

There will also be a presentation on Raptor Visitor Management System, a security system requiring those who visit school campuses to scan a photo I.D. which is compared to a database of around 750,000 known sex offenders. Lopez said he is interested in installing the system in all of the District’s schools.

The website for Raptor Technologies, the Houston-based company that manages the system, states the company currently works with over 25,000 schools across the country. 

Lopez said installing the service in all of the schools will cost around $38,000.

The meeting is tonight at 5:30 p.m. at the District office on Hunter Street in Española.

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