Retiree living the dream as clemson elementary resource officer – upstatetoday.com electricity in costa rica

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“I found out they had something like a citizens police academy at the Clemson Police Department,” Cioffoletti said. “It was eight weeks every Tuesday for three hours, and various aspects of police work were discussed — jail, fingerprints, getting to drive a police car. I talked to Chief (Jimmy) Dixon and found out about the reserve officer program.”

After undergoing the required 12 weeks of academy training, Cioffoletti passed the program and became a reserve officer. While serving in that unpaid capacity, assisting full-time police officers at various events, the opportunity arose last summer for Cioffoletti to become a school resource officer at Clemson Elementary School.

“The Pickens County Board of Ed approached all the schools last year and stated they would like to have officers present specifically at the elementary schools, as the middle schools and the high schools already had school resource officers on site,” he said.Chief Jimmy Dixon had mentioned to them we didn’t really have anyone available right now and would get back to them. He talked to me, and since I’m a reserve officer with the city, donating my time back to the city and not costing the city anything to have me, Chief Dixon went to the board of education.”

“The normal pay the state is sending the schools is $120,000 on the year, and that covers overhead, insurance, vehicles, training, uniforms — whatever is necessary to put a full-time officer in school,” Cioffoletti said. “They’re not paying me anywhere near that, and it’s like a contract employee. You get a 1099 from day one. It’s cheap for the city (and) it’s very cheap for the school system.

“What I’m hoping next year, when the state comes across with full funding, they go back to Chief Jimmy Dixon and say they would like to have me stay at the school. Even if they doubled my salary, they would still be saving over $80,000, and that’s a win-win for everybody.”

“The principals from both schools asked Chief Jimmy Dixon if I could go there in uniform and back up the on-site SROs,” he said. “It did not cost them anything to have additional support in the schools. I patrolled the halls, got to know the students and teachers, and they liked me being there. That’s why Jimmy thought this would be a perfect fit.”

“It helps that I can mentor some of the children, that I’m very visible in the hallways and out there at recess and sit with them at lunch,” Cioffoletti said. “Kids talk and ask me a lot of questions, and they all know why I’m at the school — I’m at the school to keep them safe and free from harm.”

When he first started at Clemson Elementary, a kindergarten teacher asked Cioffoletti to talk to students in the class. Cioffoletti said he told the students about his background and what he called his “tool belt,” taking out a few of the items, such as handcuffs, baton and pepper spray. Students would then ask questions, some of which Cioffoletti admitted were “difficult.”

“The kids really liked it, and it made them feel safe and it opened up communication channels with the students,” he said. “They’re not afraid to talk to police, and they shouldn’t be — we’re here to help them, we’re not here to be their enemies.”

“A lot of people don’t understand that what they see a lot of times on the news is only half truths,” he said. “I used to stand before middle schoolers and say that I represent three levels of authority — adult, teacher and law enforcement — and someone in this class is going to disrespect all three.

“He was in the backseat of the car, and we were on the way to the Pickens County Stockade, and I could see him looking at me through the rearview mirror,” Cioffoletti said. “He said, ‘Is that you, Mr. C?’ I said, ‘Yes, it’s me. Evidently, you didn’t listen to my talks we had in school, did you?’ He said, ‘no,’ so I said, ‘Guess what? Now you’re riding in the backseat of my patrol car like I said would happen.’”

Cioffoletti said he told the person to go back and get a GED to obtain a job and financially support his children. Nearly 10 months later, that person visited Cioffoletti at the police department and said he had earned his GED and gotten a job based on the talk they had in the patrol car.

“Honestly, it’s not up to me whether or not I’m coming back here next year — it’s up to the Pickens County sheriff (and) it’s up to Chief Jimmy Dixon as to whether I’m back in the school or not,” Cioffoletti said. “It depends on how they want to spend their funding, but if they offer me the position, I will be back.”