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Learning goes both ways

Romo named Valencia High's new resource deputy

Posted: August 22, 2008 9:42 p.m.
Updated: October 24, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Deputy Romo walks towards the administrative offices at Valencia High after his end-of-the-day patrol of the surrounding area. Romo is the school's new resource deputy.

 

Pete Romo is going back school.

The sheriff's deputy isn't brushing up on physics, he's Valencia High School's new school resource deputy.

School resource deputies serve in all the valley's junior high and high schools, said Detective Dan Finn with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.

Law enforcement officers help provide campus security, can resolve student conflicts and assist in government classes, Finn said.

Romo is a 13-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. He has spent the past four years on patrol based out of the Sheriff's Station.

"The opening came up, and I applied," Romo said about changing assignments. The job will give him first-hand experience with area teenagers, which is invaluable in crime fighting.

"We can get to these kids early and keep them from committing bigger crimes," he said.

Intervention can be as simple as stopping two groups of teenagers from fighting or something as innovative as Teen Court. Romo helps facilitate the Teen Court program that redirects youth offenders from juvenile court to a court in the school run by other students.

Offenders are judged by their peers and punishment is handed out by the court. If found guilty, the students can be sentenced to write an essay on decision making. Some guilty students can be sentenced to community service for their crimes and some have to pay restitution, Romo said.

It's been 18 years since Romo has been a high school student, but that doesn't mean he is completely out of touch.

"I keep up with what teenagers are going through," he said. He is paying close attention to students since school resumed at Valencia High School Thursday. Like most teenagers, the struggle for local kids is trying to fit in with the crowd, he said.

Learning goes both ways, Romo said. He is taking mental notes on teenage behavior so he'll know what to do when the time comes.

"I feel like I am cheating," he said about the tips he picks up on teenagers.

Romo said the interaction between kids and cops is hot and cold. He gets a warmer reception from junior high school kids, while high school students are more reluctant to strike up conversation, he said. Romo wants to improve the Sheriff's Department's relationship with teenagers in an effort to curb crime.

A strong relationship between kids and cops has benefit beyond the classroom, Finn said. The program creates a community presence for the department and makes approaching any law enforcement officer and less nerve wracking experience for young people, he added.

Finn is a member of the Sheriff's Station's COBRA team, which focuses primarily on youth and gang issues.

Finn and Romo are coordinating efforts to squash gangs in local schools. Romo is able to access Finn's files and that helps with monitoring gang activity in school. Finn uses information gathered by Romo to help with gang enforcement outside school.

Romo's top priority for his first year at Valencia High is bridging the gap between kids and sheriff's deputies. He said it is possible and he points to his own childhood in Artesia as an example.

Romo grew up in Artesia and said the his neighborhood wasn't the best. But his interaction with the sheriff's deputies who patrolled the area were positive. Those early impressions encouraged Romo to join the sheriffs, he said.

Romo hopes he can do the same in Santa Clarita Valley.

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