An honest teen made a big impression on Steve Guth, the school resource officer at , last school year when he did the right thing at a school dance.
The teen found a $100 bill laying on the floor and picked it up. Instead of pocketing the money, he took it straight to the school resource officer and an assistant principal.
“I just thought that was pretty cool,” Guth said. “Anybody can ask themselves what they would do if they found a $100 bill on the ground. He chose to turn it in."
Guth is one of three school resource officers who are stationed in Waukesha public schools this year. The program is in its 10th school year after starting during the 2001-02 school year. Guth began as the school resource officer at Waukesha West last school year. Each officer assigned to a school stays there for four years, Guth explained.
Also in the schools this year are police officers Michelle Trussoni and Trussoni has been assigned to and Strandlie is a new face at
“Each school is unique in that they have their own culture and they have their own set of population with the students and the staff, but generally an SRO creates a partnership with the school administrative team and is that liaison between the and the school and,” Guth said.
Creating a liaison
During the Police Chief Russell Jack described the school resources as a “constable” in the school, because “everything is funneled trough them.”
The police officers who are assigned to the school’s work extremely hard as they work with hundreds of students, Jack said, fighting problems like drugs and bullying.
“They really have a great relationship with those kids and the faculty down there,” Jack said.
is extremely supportive of the school resource officer program and said he worked with a similar system when he was at Germantown High School.
“I really would be hard pressed to work in a high school without a school resources officer,” Towers said.
But it’s not because he wouldn’t feel safe without a police officer in the school, Towers was quick to add. It’s because of the relationships the police officers build with the students and the administrative staff.
“They just offer so much to the school community from the standpoint of educating students and even staff about various things,” Towers said.
What does a school resource officer do?
School resource officers do a lot more than just handing out tickets, Guth explained.
“The reality is that for every one citation or arrest that we make, we have 50 to 100 positive contacts,” Guth said. “We are really there as a resource, not only to the administrative team with helping with safety plans, but we are there with the students as a resource to give the students a positive look at a law enforcement officer.
“Most contacts that a person 16 years old or 18 years old is going have is possibly being stopped for speeding or a traffic violation, where as being in the school with the students in their school day, they see the positive portion of law enforcement.”
The school resource officers are involved in different things every day, including:
- Safety plans for the school
- Problem solving issues
- Alcohol and drug abuse education
- Classroom presentations
- Questions and answer sessions
- Cyberbullying and sexting
- Drug searches
- Counseling students
- Mediating problems between students
“There are a lot of prongs to what we do,” Guth said. “We are not just a cop in a building. We are a counselor and a mentor. We are a police officer No. 1, but really, we have a lot of other functions. We want to give them the realistic answers to what their questions are.”
In addition to having cameras in the hallways at each building, the school resource officers interact with the students and begin to build trust with the students. Guth said that some of his tips during the past school year that became police investigations came straight from the students.
“As society changes, everything changes. We as a police department and police officers have to change as well,” Guth said. “The kids really have the finger on the pulse on the culture of what is going on, and the bath salts. Those kids all knew about that probably before most police officers knew about it. A lot of stuff we learn, we can inform our drug unit here and become educated as to what the new thing is.”
How are the school resource officers selected?
In Waukesha, the school resource officers have to apply for the position, which runs for four years. The officers start in their jobs so they get to see the freshman they start with graduate from high school. The police department also staggers the years that a police officer is placed in a new school to continuously have experienced school resource officers.
Guth said he wanted to join because he is outgoing and able to work with different types of people. But what he found interesting about the school resource position was the likelihood that his days would never be the same.
But it was more than that for Guth.
“There is always someone that needs help,” Guth said. “In a high school, the kids that need help, when you help them it actually can make a difference long term, versus as a patrol officer. A lot of times when you are helping people, unfortunately you are just kind of a bandaid on a bigger problem.
“When you are more intimately involved with the kid, you have more time to spend with the family to set up different resources for them. … You have the opportunity to make more of a difference, instead of just basically getting called to the house and having a few minutes to sort out a problem. You can take it to the next level and actually see some results.”