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Maynard’s new school resource officer, Mirella Ruggiero, likes to interact with students in all three schools in town. She finds it energizing.
“Honestly, I do have an office where I have my laptop, but I’m not stationary,” Ruggiero said. “I’m up and about, dropping in classrooms, talking to students, every day.”
Ruggiero started her job in December, and has been an officer in Maynard for three years. She graduated from UMass-Dartmouth with a degree in criminal justice in 2014.
“I show my presence, let the kids and staff know I’m there,” she said of her route through the Green Meadow Elementary school, Fowler Middle, and Maynard High schools.
She sits on the security, crisis response, and wellness committees at the schools, and gained valuable experience as a police officer on duty from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., where she responded to calls from the schools from time to time.
“I formed close relationships with the students, which helped me get familiar with them and some of their issues,” she said.
Officially, Ruggiero is the liaison between the schools and the police department “to ensure the safety of the students and staff.”
But she also wants to “take away the stigma” that police officers are only around to punish students.
“I offer advice, not necessarily as a police officer,” she said. “I am an officer but I’m a human being too. I enjoy the interactions.”
She attended a week-long training to be certified as a resource officer. She worked as a dispatcher at the department before her job as an officer.
While she won’t get involved with minor school disciplinary problems or violations, she will always be available to assist the principals.
The Maynard Police Department is also a member of Communities for Restorative Justice. C4RJ is a referral program used by police departments to siphon first-time juvenile misdemeanor cases away from the court system to a community-based system that brings the person harmed together with the perpetrator to work out a method of healing and restoration.
So far, so good.
“It’s a gradual process of learning about the schools, attending meetings, and keying into trends among the students,” she said.