School Resource Officers (SROs) are back in the Lake Washington School District this year, one new to the position and the other returning.
Officer Paul Edwardsen is assigned to Redmond High School (RHS) and Officer Bill Corson is back at Redmond Junior High and Rose Hill Junior High, after serving as SRO in those same schools from 2000-05.
Both have kids of their own and a wealth of experience in police work.
Furthermore, Edwardsen has a unique kinship with the Mustangs because he graduated from RHS in 1970.
We asked him if it felt weird to be back as “a cop” at his alma mater, albeit in a new building.
“Gosh, I thought it was kind of funny at first,” he admitted. “This apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree! But this is a good community, I’ve always enjoyed it.”
He added that parts of the modern campus are named after teachers or administrators who were his authority figures back when he was a teen.
“Redmond was Podunk, it really was the sticks back then,” he recalled. “It was the same number of students but drew from a wider radius. No one would have dreamed of having a full-time police officer on campus in those days. This was a very safe community.”
And it still is, he mentioned, but what SROs do is largely proactive, more than reactive to crime.
On an average school day, Edwardsen explained, “I’ll be walking around a lot, during passing times and before and after school. I want to be very visible and develop a rapport with students — that takes a while — to be a resource for them, as well as teachers.”
Since this school year began, he’s dealt with at least one medical emergency. He’s also spotted some graffiti and responded to a brief physical altercation between two female students.
“Nine times out of 10, by the time you hear of a physical fight, it’s already over,” he explained.
Teachers and staff members also ask Edwardsen’s advice about students or personal matters.
“If I don’t know the answer, I can point them in the right direction,” he said.
As the school year goes on, he expects to educate students about drug addiction and dispel urban legends about things that police can or can’t do. He’ll attend big events such as home football games. And having his police car parked at the school is a deterrent for outsiders who might otherwise come to the campus with bad intentions.
Edwardsen described RHS security guard George Jannusch as a valuable colleague: “He knows what’s going on. We work as a team. He’s very streetwise, a straight talker and very fair. Kids trust him.”
He said the Internet is not as much of a safety threat for RHS students as parents might fear, because local teens are techno-savvy and for the most part, wise about the risks of posting too much personal information online.
Meanwhile, bullying is actually more prevalent in junior high than at the high school because younger teens with their first tastes of independence are more likely to push behavioral boundaries.
In any case, “There’s no tolerance for it,” Edwardsen stated. “And kids here are pretty much up-to-speed on sexual harassment, the behaviors that aren’t acceptable. We have really good counselors here, good teachers and there are clear expectations.”
The return of SROs to local schools is thanks to the passage of a City of Redmond Public Safety levy passed in 2007.
Lake Washington School District Superintendent, Dr. Chip Kimball, commented, “We appreciate the commitment of the City of Redmond, the taxpayers and the community in making an effective SRO program possible. Our Redmond SROs are extremely important, due to the relationships the officers build with students as well as crime prevention and overall safety.”