'I’ll be their hero': Weber school resource officers reflect on their role

Tuesday , May 15, 2018 - 5:15 AM

Jared Ortgiesen says he will do anything for his students.

Ortgiesen, a school resource officer with the Weber County Sheriff’s Office, is one of about 16 school resource officers serving Weber schools. They wear multiple hats, representing the law enforcement agency while serving as mentors.

Ortgiesen’s job, however, is somewhat different to that of his colleagues — he is in charge of 12 elementary schools in the district.

He was a patrol deputy for about 12 years. During that time, the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 happened and he was devastated. That event, he said, changed his whole career plan.

“Because of Sandy Hook Elementary, my stepkids didn’t want to go to school. My stepkids were scared,” Ortgiesen said. “To me that was like, ‘This is not OK.’”

He said he felt he needed to do more, so he drove by the elementary schools every day hoping he would make the students feel safer. And then a position to be a school resource officer opened and he applied for it.

The position was at the secondary level, but he told his supervisors he really wanted to work at the elementary level. In 2014, he got the position.

“I think it’s complete garbage that the kids have to worry about this stuff,” Ortgiesen said. “If I can make a kid feel a little bit safe going to school, then I am happy because that’s what I wanted to do.”

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Ortgiesen is at a different elementary school every day. He is in charge of teaching the N.O.V.A. Principles course.

N.O.V.A. stands for Nurturing, Opportunities, Values and Accountability. According to its website, the program was designed “to provide a resource to children, families and communities to fight against harmful influences, while providing guidance toward positive opportunities and values.”

Ortgiesen taught a N.O.V.A. lesson at Uintah Elementary School last week. The topic of the day was teasing and bullying.

He explained to the students there were two kinds of teasing: the fun teasing — like when a high school student brags to another student about how their school is better — and the mean-spirited tease intended to hurt the other person.

He also explains that they should avoid making jokes that start with the “no offense” disclaimer.

“Let’s just give compliments to each other,” Ortgiesen said.

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Deputy Mike Chatelain is the resource officer at Wahlquist Junior High, Farr West and Pioneer Elementary schools.

He worked for 20 years as a patrol officer at the Ogden Police Department before starting at the Weber County Sheriff’s Office in 2006. He has been a school resource officer for five years.

Ogden Police Department declined multiple requests for interviews of their school resource officers.

“I enjoy it,” Chatelain said. “It’s a great assignment with a lot of potential.”

He initially applied to be a school resource officer out of curiosity, since it was an assignment he had never done before. He then realized the position had a bigger impact on the community.

“It gives me an opportunity to work with the youth and I really believe that this is key to interacting with your community,” Chatelain said. “If kids are comfortable talking to you and approaching you, things are gonna go much smoother.”

Chatelain can be seen in the hallways of Walhquist Junior High School almost every day during the morning, lunchtime and after school. He chats with the students about games, sports and classes. Students tend to offer him high fives when they see him.

He said he would like for more students to see him as someone they can trust and someone they can come to if they, or someone else, are in trouble.

“Junior High is a tough time in all of our lives, but it’s a learning time as well,” Chatelain said. “Hopefully their poor choices can be taken care of so they can make better ones.”

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The role of school resource officers was discussed for weeks after the Feb. 14 Parkland, Florida, shooting that left 17 dead.

According to several news reports, the school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School radioed in about the gunfires in a school building but didn’t go in or engaged the shooter.

Both Chatelain and Ortgiesen said they are confident the training provided by the Weber County Sheriff’s Office will help them be successful in the event of a school shooting.

Ortgiesen said the Weber County Sheriff’s Office is ready to go in and save lives.

“I’m a mentor to those kids and, if they need me, I’ll be their hero,” Ortgiesen said. “I am not going to let kids die in my schools if I have an ability to stop it. I will fight until I can and I know that’s the mentality of all of our guys.”

Contact education reporter Sergio Martínez-Beltrán at smartinezbeltran@standard.net or 801-625-4274. Follow him on Twitter @SergioMarBel and like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/STANDARDEXSergio.

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