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Bridging the gap between police, students

When Boulder City police officer Eric Prunty accepted the job of school resource officer, in a way he had to take a step back in time more than 30 years to when he was in school.

Prunty had been with BCPD for nearly five years when he said yes to the position in September of last year, replacing David Krumm, who had served as SRO for 11 years.

“I was asked if I’d be interested in it and I agreed,” he said. “I thought it would be something different being that I had been on patrol on the graveyard shift for many years. It was a different opportunity. Usually when someone is in this position, they tend to be there for quite a while. So, while I had given it some thought in the past, I wasn’t sure when it would become available.”

In normal circumstances, the Clark County School District supplies its own officers to the schools. But in Boulder City, the district has a contract with the city for a BCPD officer to fill that role while serving all four public schools in town.

When asked if there was a period of adjustment going from working patrol to patrolling school hallways, without hesitation, he said, “Yes, definitely. There absolutely was. There’s a different crowd of people you interact with at the schools as opposed to on graveyard. It took a little while to get my feet under me and see how things operate while connecting with the kids.”

Prunty has two kids of his own, which he said benefits him in talking with kids and feels he makes a better SRO now, than if he had held that position 20-plus years ago when he first got into law enforcement.

“I think I can relate to the kids and sometimes it’s just a matter of getting down to their level,” he said while taking a knee. “It can help being at their eye level when talking to them and seeing what the problem may be.

“You have to take a different approach when talking with kids. Even at the high school, they’re still young kids. There are times when the approach I take is that of a counselor or mentor. That’s what took me a while to figure out and in doing so, start to build relationships with the kids. It was a bit of learning curve for me when working with this many kids. At first, I was worried about how they’d receive me. I didn’t know. But the staff here has been a great help, especially during that learning period.”

To his knowledge, Boulder City has had an SRO since the mid-1990s. That may surprise some here in Clean, Green Boulder City but from his experience, he said in today’s world, it’s kind of expected. However, he said some are surprised that CCSD does not have its own officer(s) in town.

“I would love to see more than just myself, particularly with four schools to service,” he said. “God forbid there was an active shooter or something serious like that. Our (BCPD) officers are great and respond quickly but having two of us would truly be beneficial.”

An average day for Prunty is working 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. five days a week. When he gets in, he checks security cameras for all four schools, checks messages, does perimeter checks at three schools throughout the day and sits down with staff and students. During school breaks, such as that at Christmas, Prunty tries to use his vacation time. But during summers, he goes back on street patrol.

While the issues or crimes he deals with in Boulder City often pale compared to schools in Henderson and Las Vegas, Prunty said there are some. The most common here are attendance issues when truancies or absences get to a certain level. He said there are drugs, but it’s minimal. The biggest issue in the area of drugs is marijuana vape use, being that they have to be 21 or older to be in possession. There are also the occasional fights or property theft.

“But as a whole, we truly have a really great student body, especially compared to other schools,” he said. “Definitely, 100%, it makes me appreciate what I have here, especially when I talk to friends who are resource officers elsewhere.”

When he talks with students, specifically those who may be in trouble, he looks to serve as a liaison or bridge between the students and police.

“I try and change the perception some kids have when it comes to who we (police) are,” he said. “We’re not just these enforcers here to yell at you. We’re here to listen to them and talk to them. Most are receptive but some are not.”

Prunty laughed when asked if students, just like one’s own children often do, ever try and get one past him because they forget that he was once their age.

“I remind kids of that a lot,” he said, laughing. “When they’re trying to do something, I will remind them by saying, ‘I didn’t always have white hair. I was young once, too. I know the answers to the test because I’ve taken it, since I’ve been there.’ Quite often, though, I try and look through their eyes to see how they see me.

“We have great kids here and I enjoy the interaction I have with them. These kids may not be my sons and daughters but I will protect them as if they were.”

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Ron Eland/Boulder City Review

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