Officer taking role at school

NEW MAN ON CAMPUS — Fairmont police officer Mike Beletti stands outside Fairmont High School, where he will serve as school resource officer beginning this fall.

FAIRMONT — Over the past two decades, the public school experience has changed. Technology continues to grow by leaps and bounds, social norms have shifted, and a greater emphasis has been placed on student safety.

To that end, the Fairmont Police Department is once again teaming up with Fairmont Area Schools to provide an on-site school resource officer, a move meant not only to keep students safe, but to help them build better relationships with local police officers.

Filling this important role is Officer Mike Beletti. Beletti began his law enforcement career roughly eight years ago, and was able to share what that was like.

“I began my law enforcement career in 2009 with the Winnebago Police Department and that was my very first law enforcement job,” he said. “I didn’t have any family in the southern Minnesota area, but I had some friends from college that graduated and got some jobs down here and that’s how I came to the area. But I’ve grown to love it here, it’s been great with the slower pace.

“I started working part time for the Blue Earth Police Department and the Fairmont Police Department in 2010, so I did that for a couple of years, and became full-time in Winnebago in 2012, and then I got hired full time in Fairmont in 2014.”

Beletti then discussed how he became interested in the SRO position.

“I learned about this process through previous talk, and I’ve been representing the department during the career day at the high school,” he said. “Interacting with the students really got me interested in the SRO position.”

He went on to share the history of the SRO program.

“Prior to my becoming employed here full time, the department did have an SRO program, but I think due to lack of funding and officers retiring, they just needed coverage on the streets for the patrol shifts,” he said. “For the past couple of years, the road officers have been covering the calls out there, and I think we’ve just been seeing a need for an officer to be out there to provide a sense of security and a deterrent for any criminal activity.”

When asked about other benefits to students of having an officer in school, Beletti said the most important reason is to relate to the students, building the relationship between the police department and students.

“We want students to feel comfortable, not only inside the school but outside the school,” he said. “One of the things that I felt was important is that students want to feel safe so that they can learn, and gain the most out of their schooling. I would say the main goal of the SRO being out there is to make sure that students graduate safely, and that’s what we really want to promote.”

On a personal note, Beletti noted he is looking forward to interacting with staff and students, as well as becoming more familiar with the community.

“Our schools are pretty large here, so getting to know them on a more personal level and building relationships is what I look forward to the most,” he said.

As for other school-related projects, Beletti said the department is looking at getting a program called Adopt-a-cop started in the elementary school.

“From what I understand, this was a program done in the past,” he said. “What it means is that we’ll take younger students and we’ll try to get officers to adopt a class for a year. They’ll come in once a month and do different activities with the kids, reading to them for a few hours, participating in a school activity, or educating them about a specific topic.”

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