School Resource Officers
School resource officers keep a high profile at Lincoln Southwest High School
Story and photos by Corey Day, News Net Nebraska
When a disturbed student at Millard South High School near Omaha shot two people and himself on Jan. 5, a rumor spread that a friend of his at Lincoln Southwest High would do the same thing. That was a cue for Officer Jerome Blowers to swing into action.
Blowers, a Lincoln patrolman detailed as a school resource officer at Southwest, found the boy and determined that he was not a threat. Students finished classes as usual.
“What was great about that is that Officer Blowers was able to meet with the student in a personal setting away from school, thus ensuring no possible danger,” said Principal Rob Slauson.
Score another one for the school resource officers. These specially assigned police became popular after the Columbine school shootings in Colorado in 1999, when two students went on a shooting spree, killing a dozen classmates, a staff member and ultimately themselves. The program today gives police a way to respond instantly to such crises, as well as more workaday matters like thefts, assaults and drug use.
It takes a certain kind of officer to work the halls of a high school. Such police need to be compassionate but tough-minded. They need to be able to relate to young people; have a sense of the challenges they face.
Blowers gets along so well with students, faculty and administrators that he was asked to take a second three-year hitch and would like to stay in the job even longer. A big part of his job, he says, is showing kids that police can be helpful.
“One of the main things I do is erase the negative stereotype that many police officers get from adolescents,” he said. “We are human just like them, and we truly want to help them out and be a support in their life. Handing out tickets and punishing people is a very small part of our job.”
Thankfully these days don’t come around very often. During the days without crises, school resource officer’s make it their duty to continue developing strong, positive relationships with the students around them. Officer Julie Pucket at Lincoln East High School loves the task of connecting with adolescents.
“I love the challenge of working with kids. They present new challenges every day, and getting to be a part of their lives is incredible,” she said. “If I didn’t think I could positively change the lives of a few of these kids, I wouldn’t be in this job.”
Understanding the mindset of a teenager is no easy task. Pucket makes herself visible around school and is always available to talk with any student in need.
“She works really well with students. She understands the thought processes of kids, and the reasons kids make the mistakes they do,” said Lincoln East Principal Susan Cassata.
Officer Julie Pucket counsels a troubled high school student
Not only do these officers develop a bond with students, but also with the parents of students. Acting as a mediator and problem solver is as important as anything.
“Officer Pucket is a tremendous problem solver; that’s one of her best assets. Parents will stop by the school periodically throughout the day and talk to her about a problem they are having with their child,” said Cassata. “Officer Pucket will give them some information they may be unfamiliar to them because they have never had a child in trouble with law enforcement.”
There is a delicate balance between being a friend to students and being a police officer. By being a friend to students, Pucket believes she prevents a lot of crimes from ever happening.
“I love the kids. I think the fact I can develop a positive relationship with these kids and relate to them on a personal level is an incredible thing. Developing these relationships is the main reason a lot of these kids don’t do things they shouldn’t,” she said.
Every day is different for students, and the same is certainly true for these officers. New challenges are presented every day, and some days are better than others. The common denominator for any school resource officers, however, is their desire to work with students and the ability to impact their lives in a variety of ways. According to Pucket, this is truly a job you must love in order to be successful.
“I have worked at three different schools as a Resource Officer and I enjoy it more with each new year,” she said. “Getting to watch these kids grow, I almost feel like a surrogate mother to some of them. These are my kids and I truly love being able to help them however possible.”