PITTSFIELD — The one carryover and two new school resource officers in Pittsfield schools say they are pleased to be filling relationship roles, not just patrolling duties.
The veteran, Jessica Godfroy, assigned to Pittsfield High School, explained that most of her job is being available to students and staff members to provide help, not to police the halls.
She mentioned such specific roles as dealing with bullying and mental health referrals.
“The very first thing I said to these (two new) guys when they walked in the door on the first day is that the absolute last thing you are going to do is arrest a child, unless there is no other option,” Godfroy said. “What people don’t realize is that a lot of these kids have things going on at home. They’re victims of crimes in school, they’re victims of crimes outside of school, and they bring that trauma and those things in with them to school which cause them to act out.”
Relationships with students help connect them to resources they might not know exist, Godfroy said. For example, she provides support and investigates cases for students who have experienced sexual assault or other crimes, both on and off campus.
Students with difficulties, Godfroy said, “are much more likely to cooperate and work with someone they know versus an officer coming in off the street.”
Superintendent Joseph Curtis said that having one officer covering four schools, as Godfroy did the last few years, would make it “virtually impossible” to maintain all those connections.
The newly assigned officers are getting to know their respective buildings. Izinna Degraffenried, at Taconic High School, spends at least 20 minutes every hour walking the halls. She has met a lot of kids that way, including ones that weren’t where they were supposed to be.
Degraffenried said the reason she wanted to take a position in the schools is the same reason that she joined the Police Department in the first place: She wanted to see someone that looked like her in that role. As the department’s first Black woman to become an officer, she wants to connect with students who have shared experience with her.
“There are so many kids from the same background as me,” Degraffenried said. “It’s also about me being able to share my story with them.”
She doesn’t spend a lot of time in her office; if she did, she said, she wouldn’t get to know the school as well as she has. But the office looks different from when she started, thanks to students’ advice.
“They told me that my office looked like a jail cell,” Degraffenried said. “It was bare and sad.”
She changed it almost immediately, decorating the space with pictures of her family, unicorns and a basketball hoop.
After the departures and retirements siphoned off some school resource officers, she thinks it’s important that students know she’s there to stay. She intends to be there when current first-year students graduate down the line, she said.
“They need to see that stability in order for them to really trust us, too,” Degraffenried said.
Ansy Jumeau, who splits his time between Reid and Herberg middle schools, said that he valued the opportunity to talk with students and reach them before they’ve made bad decisions, being able to steer them in the right direction upstream. He viewed the position as a platform, he said.
Being present is the biggest thing, he said.
“If you really want to make a difference in someone’s life,” Jumeau said, “it’s got to be every single day.”