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PETER PEREIRA/The Standard-Times Dartmouth police Officer Paul Arruda walks among the student population at Dartmouth High School on Monday. He recently began his assignment as the school resource officer, staffing a position that was discontinued two years ago due to budget cuts.
By Curt Brown
Standard-Times staff writer
September 16, 2008 6:00 AM
DARTMOUTH - After two years without a school resource officer at Dartmouth High School, the position has been reinstated.
Officer Paul Arruda has been on the job since the start of the school year.
Officer Arruda, an umpire and referee for several youth sports, was named to the position after voters approved an override question to raise $520,160 for the Police Department to hire seven police officers, including a school resource officer.
The 39-year-old father of two and former DARE officer in the Police Department sought the position when it was approved.
"It gives me the opportunity to work with kids again and help them stay on track and give them a different avenue. Now they don't have to just go to a teacher. They can come to see me."
He said he knows many of the students from his former position as a DARE officer and his association with youth sports. He also worked with Jane Brooks, the last resource officer at the school, who is now retired from the department.
Officer Arruda has an open-door policy with students in his office across from the cafeteria, where he hopes to counsel students about bad associations and good judgment.
"You hope they listen," he said of the heart-to-heart conversations he has had with students over the years. "And if they get involved in a situation, you just hope something (Principal Donna Dimery) or I said pops into their minds."
He is often seen roaming the halls, popping into classrooms and walking through the parking lot, talking to students and trying to be visible.
"My goal here is safety, try to keep the school as safe as possible. I want them to be here for one reason - their school. I don't want them to worry about their safety."
While the public perception of teens is that they are "just out to cause trouble," Officer Arruda said that isn't true; Dartmouth High students volunteer in their community, mentoring their fellow students and helping at the Council on Aging.
"I would say 99 percent of the kids are good kids."
Officer Arruda wears his police uniform in his new job so he can be easily recognized, but he said it does not mean he feels a law enforcement solution is the answer in every situation.
In fact, the opposite is true, he said.
His attitude is that many situations can be settled without an arrest, though in some cases there is no other choice.
Like all school resource officers, he specializes in crime prevention, which makes success hard to measure.
There could be times when he receives information about an unsupervised house party or tensions brewing between different groups or plans for a fight after a basketball game. In those situations, he will pass on the information to other officers in the hope it prevents someone from getting hurt.
If the information is correct, a problem is averted and no one is the wiser.
"A lot of what I do is non-statistical. The crime never happened because of a tip."