School information resource officer joins F-M

One of Fayetteville-Manlius School District’s newest staff members is working to bridge the gap between students and law enforcement officials.

In July, Town of Manlius police officer John Paul started serving the district full-time as a school information resource officer, or SIRO. He joins the district’s existing SIRO Damien Golden, also from Town of Manlius, in enhancing school safety and providing education and support to F-M students and staff members on a variety of topics, including drug abuse, violence, bullying and theft.

“They’re more than just police officers,” F-M Superintendent Dr. Craig J. Tice said. “The SIROs are here to build positive relationships with students and help them succeed academically and in life.”

For the past five years, one SIRO has been serving the district full-time through an intergovernmental agreement between F-M and the local municipality. To better support students and staff, F-M Board of Education members in August agreed to expand the contract to include a second officer.

“Increasing officer presence in the school community goes hand-in-hand with relationship-building,” Dr. Tice said. “The more familiar students are with the officers, the more likely they will be to reach out to them as a trusted adult,” Dr. Tice said.

Officer Paul is an 18-year police veteran who’s worked for the City of Oneida and now Manlius. He splits his time between the district’s two middle schools, but also visits with elementary students. Officer Golden works at the high school.

“We’re officers of the law, but that’s just one of the many hats a SIRO wears,” Officer Paul said. “We’re here to connect with students and support them through the good times and not-so-good times. We’re mentors and informal counselors, too.”

Officer Paul said he’s spent the first two months of school seeking out opportunities to interact with students. Sometimes, he joins them for lunch in the cafeteria. He also visits classrooms and participates in lessons, working alongside students as they complete schoolwork and projects.

The officers may elect to wear formal law enforcement uniforms or business casual attire, like golf shirts and khaki pants. They carry tools of the trade, including side arms, radios, and – starting this school year – body cameras. Following a three-year pilot for road patrol officers, Town of Manlius Police Department now requires all of its officers – including SIROs serving the F-M and the East Syracuse Minoa School Districts – to wear the pager-size recording devices. The municipality’s leadership personnel this past summer met with F-M and ESM board of education members (and their respective legal counsels) to discuss the new requirements.

SIROs can limit the time their cameras are rolling and usually only switch them on when they investigate a complaint or respond to an incident.

“We want students to recognize us, get used to seeing us, and feel comfortable with us,” Officer Paul said. “I want them to see me as somebody that they can trust, somebody they can come to if they need to discuss something important.”