First Day of School Introduces New SROs to Eustis Middle and Eustis High

EUSTIS, Florida—Eustis Middle and Eustis High school students will see some new faces this school year, as Eustis Police officers take over the role of school resource officers from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

EPD Chief Craig Capri, who has been chief a little more than a year, said it was important to him to have EPD officers in the schools. “I want our own officers in our own schools. One of the most important things is protecting our children from evil. We will engage all threats immediately,” he told Inside Lake

Capri said having his officers at EMS and EHS’ two campuses will allow his officers to build relationships with residents at an early age, which enhances trust between the community and the police department. Capri and his officers have been heavily involved in the community since he became chief, hosting numerous events including Pizza with the Police, Cookies with a Cop, and several bicycle rides.

The SRO unit will be supervised by Capt. Dave Carney, Sr. Officer David Perez will be at EMS, Sr. Officer JT Allred will be at EHS Curtwright Campus and Officer Marica Freitas will be at EHS Main Campus; Officer John Koller and Officer Cambry Herrero will serve as alternates, Capri said.

We asked the new SROs a few questions earlier this week.

Sr. Officer David Perez, Eustis Middle School

Perez is a 6-year veteran of EPD and is excited about his new role as an SRO. He told Inside Lake he is ready for any challenge that comes his way.

PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

Why did you choose to become an SRO? I became a school resource officer because I want to be a mentor for our future adult generation. Some children need a role model to look up to and I am willing to step in to provide that direction for them.

What do you want the kids to know about you? I am here for them if they need anything. I have an open door and welcome them to stop in anytime.

Do you think your presence in the schools will enhance community trust and why? I greatly think having officers in the schools enhances community trust. I believe having armed security in schools creates a peace of mind for many parents.

With the recent school shootings, safety is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Have you participated in active shooter training and safety drills? How does this training prepare you for the worst possible scenario? During the summer months, all officers of the Eustis Police Department participated in many trainings and safety drills regarding school safety. These trainings have helped prepare all of us for worst case scenarios. We are not afraid to go in and protect our children if it comes down to it.

What do you hope to accomplish as an SRO? I hope to establish relationships with the children at Eustis Middle School and create a positive rapport. I also hope to change perspective in the children’s minds regarding the views of police officers as most of the children may only know what they hear or see in the media.

Sr. Officer JT Allred, Eustis High School Curtright Campus

Allred has been with EPD for more than five years and is the Team Leader for the EPD SWAT Team. Allred is looking forward to being an SRO and thinks it is vital for an SRO to be active in their school.

PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

Why did you choose to become an SRO? I have children who are in school, and I know what it is like to wonder if they are safe. I chose to become an SRO because it is my way of giving back to the community. It’s my way of ensuring the generations of tomorrow have a safe place to get an education and effect positive change in their community.

What do you want the kids to know about you? My door is always open; I am not here to make life hard or make kids hate coming to school. I’m here to ensure they are safe and have a safe place to learn. I will make it my mission day in and day out to keep them out of harm’s way. I will always be there to listen and give you advice, if it’s wanted. I am one of the good guys, and together we will make it a fun school year.

Do you think your presence in the schools will enhance community trust and why? Absolutely, I am the face the kid will see. When the kids come home and talk about “their” SRO and our positive influence on them, it lays the foundation of trust. Through events at the school and getting to know all the kids, they will learn we are someone they can trust and depend on.

With the recent school shootings, safety is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Have you participated in active shooter training and safety drills? How does this training prepare you for the worst possible scenario? I am one of the Active Threat instructors at the police department. I went through Active Threat instructor school in January of this year, offered through F.L.E.T.C. (Federal Law Enforcement Training Commission.) Having this training and being on the SWAT team, I feel I have a hand up on the response and neutralization of an active assailant.

What do you hope to accomplish as an SRO? Build rapport with all students, and show them I’m a friendly guy and very approachable. Make sure I am available anytime a student needs to talk and make it a fun and educational school year

Officer Marcia Freitas, Eustis High School

Freitas is a two-year veteran of EPD and said she is grateful for this new opportunity. She is looking forward to developing trusting relationships with students and staff members.

Courtesy photo

Why did you choose to become an SRO? This is an amazing opportunity to get more involved with the community and to show our human side. There is more to “us” than just a badge and a gun, there’s a whole lot more to our job than just chasing bad guys.

What do you want the kids to know about you? I chose this career path to help people, and I will never stop! I will always be true to our law enforcement code of ethics.

My fundamental duty is to serve the community; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality and justice. I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it as a public trust to be held so long as I am true to the ethics of the police service. I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God to my chosen profession . . .law enforcement.

Do you think your presence in the schools will enhance community trust and why? Absolutely. My marked patrol vehicle is the external deterrent to trouble, my presence and involvement inside the school is what works to keep threats from within occurring.

With the recent school shootings, safety is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Have you participated in active shooter training and safety drills? How does this training prepare you for the worst possible scenario? Yes, as an officer we are constantly learning new and better techniques, that way we are prepared for any challenges we may encounter.

What do you hope to accomplish as an SRO? I hope to build relationship with students and staff by being congenial, visible and accessible.