Redmond’s school resource officers

Redmond’s school resource officers

School resource officers provide security, build relationships

While fall signifies back to school for students and their families, as well as teachers and other school staff, there is another group that has headed back to class: school resource officers (SROs).

While fall signifies back to school for students and their families, as well as teachers and other school staff, there is another group that has headed back to class: school resource officers (SROs).

For officer Kim Corbray with the Redmond Police Department (RPD), discovering SROs was one of the reasons she joined law enforcement. She had previously been working in social services in Lakewood when she came across an SRO program in local schools.

“My passion is working with youth,” she said.

Corbray is the SRO at Redmond Middle School (RMS) and has just entered her third year at the school. She has been with RPD since 2006.

One of the main roles of an SRO is to maintain constant visibility inside and outside of the school and provide overall security. They also conduct on-campus investigations if there has been any criminal activity. If the school is investigating a disciplinary issue that does not have a criminal element, the SRO may also assist and advise.

Jane Todd, principal at Redmond High School (RHS), added that school districts and police departments are bound at different levels when it comes to taking action. For example, she said, when it comes to conducting searches, schools in Lake Washington School District (LWSD) are able to do so when they have a reasonable suspicion, such as credible information from a reliable source. The police, on the other hand, Todd said, need probable cause to be able to conduct a search, which means they need a warrant.

It is a balance to work out which agency will take over a case, Todd said.

A COMMUNITY RESOURCE

Although assisting with disciplinary issues is a part of an SRO’s job, Todd said SROs are there more as a resource to the school to help them serve their students and families.

“He’s not here to bust people,” she said, referring to her school’s SRO, RPD officer Kyle Olsen.

An SRO’s primary function is to build relationships with young people, Todd said.

Deputy Karen Davy with the King County Sheriff’s Office agreed. She said SRO programs are an example of community-oriented policing.

Davy became an SRO during the 2005-6 school year with Highline Public Schools. She moved over to the Kent School District in December 2015.

As an SRO, she is available to students and parents five days a week and said she will even talk to parents on the weekends. And during her years in the Highline schools, she met and got to know multiple members of families as younger siblings came up through the schools following their brothers and sisters.

“You can’t buy that,” Davy said.

BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

For Corbray and RPD officer Kevin Kaptur, who is the SRO for Rose Hill Middle School, the relationships and interactions are important.

“Our interactions don’t always have to be negative,” Corbray said.

Kaptur added that the everyday interactions they have with the students show the youngsters what being a police is all about. He said he has even spoken with students who are interested in pursuing law enforcement as a career and answered their questions.

Davy has also seen how her relationships with students at school has helped with policing off campus. She said if she comes across a conflict between law enforcement and a student who has been or is in one of her schools, things tend to de-escalate immediately. Davy said it is because there is a level of trust between her and that student when they see each other every day and the student knows they can tell their side of the story and be listened to.

She added that an SRO can also talk to students about how to interact with cops safely if they find themselves in a confrontational situation.

Davy also works with the KCSO Explorers program for young adults interested in joining law enforcement. In that program, she said she shares with the Explorers the other side of the coin and how people don’t always have to do what they ask.

“(Police) have to earn their respect,” she said.

IN THE CLASSROOM

Another big part of the daily ins and outs of being an SRO includes going into the classroom. Davy, Corbray and Kaptur said they have all gone into various classrooms at their schools to teach lessons on subjects ranging from drugs and alcohol in a health class, to how the U.S. Constitution affects their policing in a history class.

Corbray even got RPD’s traffic division involved when she assisted the RMS physical education teacher during their bicycle unit. She said officers on motorcycles must complete a cone course to demonstrate their skills and they replicated this in the P.E. classes for students to practice their bicycle skills.

“It was a hit,” she said.

Todd added that when they had a criminal justice class at RHS, the SRO was very involved and their SRO is a consistent present in their Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) class.

Davy, who has started after-school clubs in the schools she has worked at, said as an SRO, you can make the position your own.

SAFETY TRAINING

Prior to the school year starting, Kaptur said he does ALICE training with the school staff. ALICE, which all of LWSD has adopted, stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.

This training is for situations such as an active shooter.

Davy has also taken a single-officer response training because she said backup from her fellow cops won’t always be readily available.

“You don’t have that kind of time to wait,” she said about an active-shooter situation.

Davy added that her being a constant presence on campus allows her to spot students who may present red flags.

“If I hear something, I will not discount it,” she said. “This is not something you joke about.”

Davy said this is another reason why building relationships with students is important, as something as little as saying “Hi” to a student and asking how their day is may stop a negative and dangerous train of thought.

She also acknowledged that there is no real way to quantify these successes in numbers, but she does have one instance in which a former student came back after he left school to let her know how she affected his life.

Davy said the young man had been involved in gangs in high school and as she would speak with him on a regular basis, it got him thinking differently about his future and seeing himself in a different light.

“He went to law school,” Davy said.


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