School Resource Officer on board

  • Igor Komerzan, 26, of Northfield, is the new Pioneer Valley Regional School District's school resource officer. He will start Aug. 22. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE

Recorder Staff
Published: 7/31/2016 11:08:54 PM

NORTHFIELD — Starting Aug. 22, the halls of Pioneer Valley Regional School and the school district’s four elementary schools will be graced with a new face. Igor Komerzan, 26, of Northfield, has been named the district’s new school resource officer.

The Northfield Police Department was officially tasked with providing a resource officer following the annual town meeting in May, when the town approved a $7.9 million budget that included money for the position.

However, Northfield Police Chief Robert Leighton has had a hire in mind since March, as Massachusetts mandates all school districts in the state to employ at least one school resource officer for the 2016-2017 school year and beyond. Leighton said he knew right away that Komerzan would be a great fit for the position.

“He has a great personality, he’s very easy to talk with and he interacts with young people very well,” Leighton said.

Positive interactions

Komerzan was born in Moldova, and came to the United States with his family in 1999, settling in Turners Falls. Growing up, he remembers believing that police were the bad guys, and didn’t have any interaction with them to lead him to believe otherwise.

So, at the age of 10, when he was playing with his brother in Turners Falls, Komerzan was surprised to have a positive experience with friendly neighborhood officers.

As the officers approached, Komerzan was worried he and his brother would get in trouble. As it turned out, the officers were simply looking for a missing girl. Later, Komerzan remembers the officers bringing them candy.

“Looking back, that was the first defining moment,” Komerzan said, the one that made him want to become a police officer himself.

Komerzan attended Greenfield Community College, where he earned an associate degree in criminal justice. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at American International College in 2014.

Since he entered law enforcement in 2012, Komerzan has worked for Bernardston and Northfield police departments. He graduated from the Massachusetts State Police Academy in February 2015.

Komerzan said many children’s perception of police is based on videos they see on television and the internet. Komerzan hopes the district’s children will be able to have positive interactions with him, like what he was able to have with officers when he was young, so they can develop new, positive perceptions of police.

“Hopefully, by having that communication, we’ll be able to identify problems before they start,” Leighton added.

Responsibilities

Komerzan will have three main roles: as a law enforcement officer, law-related counselor and law-related educator. Some of his responsibilities will include teaching students the consequences of unacceptable behavior; developing emergency crisis plans; handling situations involving possible weapons violations and the identification of dangerous substances; and deterring trespassers on campus.

Leighton plans for Komerzan to be involved in teaching classes where he could share his knowledge about the fourth amendment, constitutional rights, democracy, the judicial process, forensic science, the detrimental effects of drugs and alcohol, and more.

As a certified CPR instructor, Komerzan could also teach the high-schoolers how to perform CPR.

“Maybe we can teach them skills that I didn’t have the chance to learn when I was in high school,” Komerzan said.

After he takes a two-week class that will teach him how to pass on knowledge about drugs, alcohol, bullying, violence and personal safety to children, Komerzan hopes to implement the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program at each of the district’s four elementary schools.

Safety first

“The whole initiative is to make our schools safer,” Leighton said of employing a resource officer. “We owe it to our children to provide a safe learning environment … This is the natural next step for our department and for community policing.”

“In the wake of the school violence that has happened across our country, it’s just a smart move,” Leighton continued. “Just because this is a rural area doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen.”

Leighton added that, in the process, Komerzan will participate in school functions and truly become a part of the school community.

Before school starts, Komerzan will attend a 40-hour class with the National Association of School Resource Officers in Wakefield, R.I., where he will learn more about his responsibilities, interacting with juveniles, identifying at-risk children and intervention responses.


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