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Armed ‘school marshals’ to patrol Larimer County elementary schools

LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. — Armed volunteer sheriff’s deputies will patrol six Larimer County elementary schools starting next week.

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was the catalyst for this new program, but it’s moving beyond just protection for students.

Berthoud Elementary School, in the Thompson School District, is one of the six schools involved in the pilot program.

The idea is that the reserve deputies can create a presence within the schools and start to create a community connection and dialogue for the younger kids who may not see law enforcement in their schools until middle or high school.

A couple of dozen parents and teachers filled the library at Berthoud Elementary School Monday night to ask questions about the new “School Marshal” program.

Most parents seem to be on board with the changes. In fact, Suzy Bullet has four kids in the district. One is already in middle school, the other three are at Berthoud. She says she wishes the program had started sooner.

“I think it would have been good for him to get used to it earlier,” Bullet said.

The volunteer deputies will patrol in and around the school, first in uniform, then in plain clothes.

Rick Frey is the Security Manager for the Thompson School District. He said, “One of the things that really keep our schools safe is the ability for our kids and our parents to talk to us, to talk to school officials, to talk to law enforcement officers. It is that information that we can act upon that keeps us safe.”

And the sooner that communication  starts the better.

Bullet said, “It’s very important to get the kids to have an opportunity to talk to law enforcement and to get them demystified. I want my kids to feel safe at school.”

Reserve Deputy Larry Hofman said, “It’s an opportunity to build those relationships with our children and law enforcement in a positive way.”

The difference between the reserve deputies and other deputies is simply a paycheck. The volunteers do it for free which means no school funds or tax dollars are used to pay them. They go through very similar training and extensive background checks.