Students attending schools in the Brookings-Harbor School District have something that their schools haven’t offered for 15 years — a School Resource Officer (SRO).
Brookings Police Officer Rob Johnson will be headed back to school and in attendance at all three public schools in Brookings— Kalmiopsis Elementary School, Azalea Middle School and Brookings-Harbor High School.
Johnson will spend a little bit of time each day in each school.
“It’s important to be present in each of the schools, at different times and on different days,” he said. “Some schools may need me more than others. I won’t have a set schedule.”
Having an SRO helps the community and schools in a number of important ways.
“It builds the relationships, builds the rapport,” Johnson said. “It works to build communications between the city, the officers, the school, the family, the parents, the students, and the teachers. It’s kind of a cohesive glue between entities.”
Having an SRO also helps the police department provide better service to the schools in the community.
“Over the years, when the school has called for service, whether it was for a student who was intoxicated or unruly, or having some issues, when they called down here, it was luck of the draw as to which patrol officer they got,” Johnson said. “Some officers have more experience with students and other officers have less. With a school resource officer, you have one officer who is assigned to the schools.”
In his new role as SRO Johnson’s three major roles will be:
• Educator/guest lecturer
• Informal counselor/mentor
• Law enforcement officer
Officials at each school can call on Johnson to prepare a lesson plan and teach a class for a presentation on a topic a teacher might request of him.
“I don’t have a degree in counseling,” Johnson said, but with mentoring, he can help in many situations. “Some kids lose focus; some of them lose hope. I will be able to mentor them and help them see that there are other things to look forward to and other opportunities for them. If we have a student who isn’t doing well in school, I can talk to them and find what their interests are so I can help guide them to things they are interested in. Then they can channel and focus that energy so they can be productive.
Johnson said he wants to be a role model and offer encouragement.
“Someone that can be a shoulder they can talk to, and feel safe to do it,” he said. “And if they can express what they are feeling and have it be safe, a lot of times they can work through their own issues. And if you can get in a couple of words of encouragement and some redirection, a lot of kids can do really well if someone just shows they care.”
Johnson will wear his normal police uniform, including carrying a firearm.
“it’s important to be prepared in case there is a critical incident,” Johnson said.
“He’s still a police officer,” added Brookings Police Chief Kelby McCrae. “He’s going to look just like we look. Instead of having a more general purpose of serving everyone in the population, he’ll continue to do that, but he’s also going to have a more focused position where his real goal is working with the students and the staff and the parents there. But he’s still a police officer. He’s still going to look and be prepared like any police officer.”
Johnson will still have the role of law enforcement and there are times when he would have to issue citations of certain degrees—minors in possession of alcohol or marijuana, vaping or using tobacco. Those are things that are still citations, although minor offenses. Bringing drugs to school is a criminal offense and he would have to refer them to the juvenile justice system.
“If they are driving recklessly through the parking lot, I would rather counsel them,” Johnson said. “Making arrests and writing tickets are not my primary focus.”
Johnson said he won’t be enforcing school policy because it’s up to the school to enforce policies. But he will be there to encourage students “to get with the program.”
“I love those moments when you work with kids and good comes out of it,” Johnson said.