In this week’s ‘You Ask, We Investigate’ report, Fox 24’s Katelynn Zoellner spoke with law enforcement about the role school resource officers serve in schools.
A school resource officer, by federal definition, is a career law enforcement officer with sworn authority who is deployed by an employing police department or agency in a community-oriented policing assignment to work in collaboration with one or more schools. The position is a hybrid of counselor, educator and cop.
“I would not want to come to work if it wasn’t for our school resource officer,” said Johnny Williams, Assistant Principal at Butterfield Trail Middle School in Van Buren. “He makes relationships with kids. It’s not just about safety on the level that I think a lot of the public thinks about. It’s getting in there and getting to know the kids, so that we can help them out before something happens.”
Duties of a school resource officer include creating safe learning environments in schools, fostering positive relationships with youth, providing valuable resources to school staff members, and developing strategies to resolve problems affecting youth.
“A school resource officer really is like a teacher,” said Williams. “They actually go into classrooms and talk about everything from cyber security to how to recognize strangers. They work with our faculty and do training with them on how to handle tough situations that may occur. So, they are teachers and then they’re there on the other end if something were to happen.”
Cpl. George Edelen, a school resource officer for the Van Buren School District, has been with the Van Buren Police Department for seven years. He has been a school resource officer for three of those years.
“Our prime objective is to make sure our students and faculty are safe, but it’s more than just being a security guard,” he said. “We get to interact with the kids daily and get to know all about their lives. We are here for these kids when there’s no one else for them to turn to. We are there for them no matter what.”
Edelen said being a school resource officer is one of the most rewarding jobs.
“Right now in today’s society, bridging the gap between police and youth is huge,” he said. “This job is about building relationships that will go on forever. Working with kids is probably the best job there is. I’m fortunate to have this position and I love it every day.”
If there’s something in your community that you want to know more about, we want to investigate it. You can send your questions to Katelynn at KZoellner@KNWA.com.