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rena-7-11small.jpgSince Rena Dearden joined the Sedona Police Department, she’s been a department jewel, according to SPD Police Chief Joe Vernier.
By Trista Steers
Larson Newspapers

Since Rena Dearden joined the Sedona Police Department, she’s been a department jewel, according to SPD Police Chief Joe Vernier.

 Mal Cooper/Larson Newspapers  

In June, Arizona School Resource Officers Association put SPD’s jewel on center stage to shine for the entire state as School Resource Officer of the Year.

“She’s always been a superstar performer in my eyes,” Vernier said.

Dearden has been the SRO at Sedona Red Rock High School for the past two years. ASROA recognized Dearden’s work at the Arizona School Based Policing Conference in Prescott on June 20.

“I’m very appreciative of being nominated and selected,” Dearden said.

Former SRRHS Principal Russ Snider nominated Dearden. Vernier and two SRRHS teachers then also commented on Dearden’s performance before ASROA selected her.

“I was impressed at how she was able to build relationships with students where they trusted her as an officer,” Snider said.

Dearden’s motivation to be in the classroom teaching students allowed them to also look at her as a teacher, according to Snider.

Dearden spends two to three full days per week in the

classroom teaching students about substance abuse.

Interaction with students and the teaching aspect of SRO responsibilities are what Dearden said she enjoys most about the job.

The state award is given to an SRO who “demonstrates excellence in service and commitment toward the SRO program and its ideals and the students, school, community and department he or she serves,” according to a letter from ASROA President Kevin Quinn.

According to Quinn, ASROA was flooded with letters raving about Dearden’s positive influence and excellent teaching skills.

Vernier said he also receives comments about Dearden. Parents go out of their way to tell him it makes them feel good to know Dearden is at the school with their children.

While at SRRHS, Dearden helped Sedona Fire District create “Every 15 Minutes.” The program is designed to educate students on the dangers of drinking and driving.

Dearden is also an Explorer advisor. Explorers is an SPD youth program that teaches teenagers about law enforcement. Each year, the Explorers compete in skills competitions modeled after actual police work.

SRO is Dearden’s third assignment at SPD. Dearden first worked as the animal control officer before becoming a police officer and, eventually, an SRO.

“It doesn’t matter where she’s assigned, she’s going to do a super job,” Vernier said.

On top of her SRO assignment, Dearden is the lead officer in SPD’s Mounted Patrol Unit used at community events.

Dearden will serve as SRO for the next two years. SPD has a four-year rotation system for the program.

SRRHS’ SRO program is made possible by a law-related education grant from the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education.

The grant stipulates the officer must provide law-related education, be a resource for students and teachers and provide law enforcement when needed.

While school is out for the summer, Dearden can be spotted in her patrol car roaming the streets of Sedona waiting to get back in the classroom.

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