Yarmouth and Dennis Police celebrate 30-year anniversary of School Resource Officer program

YARMOUTH –Today, Thursday, March 9, marks the 30th anniversary of the partnership between the Yarmouth Police Department and the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District.

On Friday March 6, 1987 Yarmouth Police Officer Steven Xiarhos finished his last evening shift patrol and on Mondaymorning, March 9th, he assumed his new post as the first school resource officer (SRO) in Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School.

That new program, founded in 1987, would grow over the next three decades into the longest running program in Southeastern Massachusetts and has expanded to include other schools in the district and serves as a model to other communities trying to establish their own program.

The SRO program was designed around a format used in the Sandwich public schools. In the mid-1970’s officer Mike Miller, who retired as Chief of Police in Sandwich, was serving full time in the high school.

The Sandwich program lasted about a decade before being canceled in the mid-eighties.

At that time the Yarmouth Police Department under Chief Robert Chapman was exploring new ways to address issues at Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School.

Michael Almonte, who also retired at the rank of Chief of Police in Yarmouth, was then a Detective Sergeant assigned to work with the school on finding solutions.

The initial focus of the discussion was to introduce an undercover officer into the high school. Principal Curtis Collins had served at Sandwich High as an assistant principal before coming to D-Y.

He had worked with Mike Miller and seen first-hand the effectiveness of a school based police officer and he and Sergeant Almonte proposed the idea to Chief Chapman and Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Michael McCaffrey.

The idea was not an easy sell, particularly to the community. There was resistance to having police in the school but all involved in the effort saw that the benefits could be great and hoped that the resistance would be short lived.

The position was designed as a half-time post at the school, twenty scheduled hours per week, or five half-days. The other half of the time would be spent following up on criminal investigations.

Steven Xiarhos was selected from a field of applicants by a joint panel of school and police leaders. His new assignment gave him the title of detective and had him transferred from patrol to that division.

A cost sharing arrangement was set up where the school district would pay for the officer’s time assigned to the school.

There was no special training or any predecessor from whom he could get advice. The trail was his to blaze. To his surprise, and relief, Mike Miller answered his phone call. The two spent some time together and Miller, now reassigned to other duties at Sandwich PD, offered some timely guidance from his considerable experience.

The Yarmouth program ran successfully for several years, building the confidence of the community inside and outside the school. “Officer X” developed a rapport with the students and a relationship with the faculty that allowed him to earn trust and operate effectively in what had not always been a welcoming environment.

In a short time the police officer in the high school was part of the fabric of D-Y.

Even with the unquestionable success of the program there was something missing. Roughly 60% of the student population at D-Y was from Yarmouth, the other 40% from the Town of Dennis.

In mid-1994 the Dennis Police named its first school resource officer, Craig Stevenson. This marked a time of change for the Yarmouth program. Stevenson’s assignment had him posted at D-Y High School two days a week and at the Nathanial H. Wixon Middle School in Dennis three days a week.

Xiarhos would now spend two days a week, the days Stevenson was at the high school, at Mattacheese Middle School.

The moniker, “D-Y P.D.” (Dennis-Yarmouth Police Detachment) was coined by the newly formed team. June of 1994 would also mark the end of Xiarhos’ seven and a half years in the schools.

He returned to the patrol division where he spent a short time on the road before he was promoted to patrol sergeant. Nicholas Pasquarosa was selected to succeed Xiarhos in the position and assumed the D-Y/Mattacheese/detective post in August of 1994.

The title School Resource Officer, or SRO, was adopted by the YPD and Pasquarosa was sent for a week of specialized training in Boston presented by the National Association of School Resource Officers.

In 1995 the Yarmouth Police received grant money to expand its school based operations and instituted the “Adopt-a-School” program. Patrol officers volunteered to adopt one of the four elementary schools in town to provide safety programs and SRO-like services as their regularly assigned patrol duties allowed.

This supplemented the DARE program which was in its early stages at the time. Both Adopt-a-School and DARE would run for several years before eventually succumbing to lack of funding.

The Yarmouth SRO program continued under this format until 1996 when the school district faced a significant budget shortfall and funding for the school resource officer was reduced to just twelve scheduled hours. The presence at Mattacheese Middle School was discontinued indefinitely.

The presence at D-Y continued at three half-days a week. In 1997 Yarmouth Chief of Police Peter Carnes, at considerable strain to his budget, reinstated the 20 hour schedule at the high school to restore continuity of services.

In 1998 Dennis SRO Craig Stevenson left the school post to take an assignment as a narcotics investigator. He was succeeded by Officer Garvin Kelley who served at D-Y until 2001 when he was offered a detective post.

Detective Kelley was replaced by Officer Greg Farnkoff who served for eight years until his return to the patrol force in 2008. Officer Farnkoff was replaced by Officer Patrick McCaffrey.

SRO McCaffrey is the son of the late Superintendent of Schools Michael McCaffrey who courageously instituted the program. SRO McCaffrey is the currently serving Dennis Police School Resource Officer, dividing his time between D-Y High School and Mattacheese Middle School which now serves students from both towns.

The Yarmouth Police Department under the Carnes administration had, for several years, sought federal grant money to make the SRO at D-Y a full-time position and add a full-time SRO position at Mattacheese Middle School.

The department received the grant in 2003. This removed the position from the Detective Division and reinvented the job description.

Nick Pasquarosa was retained at the high school post with a schedule that was expanded to full time. Veteran patrol officer Bill Coughlan was selected for the Mattacheese post.

As required (and funded) by the grant, both officers along with D-Y Principal Ken Jenks were sent to Atlanta, Georgia where they received three days of training from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. The Yarmouth Police and D-Y School District worked out a cost sharing plan to ensure the continuation of the program when the grant expired in 2006.

In 2008 the Town of Yarmouth, and by extension the Police Department, fell into financial difficulty. The school resource officer unit was disbanded as one of several cuts made to balance the police budget. Just after school started that year Michael Almonte, Godfather of the SRO program and now Chief of Police, Superintendent of Schools Carol Woodbury and D-Y Principal Ken Jenks came to an arrangement in the face of serious political opposition and restored the school resource officer at D-Y High School.

The D-Y Police Services Unit reopened on September 18, 2008 with the reinstatement of Nick Pasquarosa as SRO. The Mattacheese SRO did not survive the cuts, “Officer Bill” Coughlan returned to the patrol division and retired from the Yarmouth Police Department one year later. The Mattacheese Middle School Police Services Office remained closed until the spring of 2011 when

Superintendent Woodbury and the next Yarmouth Police Chief, Frank Frederickson would come to an arrangement allowing for the assignment of a School Resource Officer to Mattacheese Middle School for the fall of 2011. Veteran Yarmouth police officer Sean Brewer was selected and is currently assigned to that post.

The school resource officer program has seen many variations over the years. Since 1987 there have been seven police chiefs between the two towns, five school superintendents, eight principals of the various schools, countless assistant principals, and thousands of students served by eight school resource officers. Every officer brought his own style and personality to the endeavor.

Any relationship is bound to have its ups and downs over the course of thirty years but even in its deepest valleys the partnership between the Yarmouth Police Department and the D-Y School District, and the high school in particular, has always been a strong one. It stands as an often envied example to other communities who wish to face the challenges in their schools in a cooperative and effective way. This long standing success has been achieved through a strong commitment to partnership.

We are pleased and very proud to be celebrating our thirtieth anniversary.

(Material provided by Yarmouth Police)