Student Resource Officers are more than officers

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Sgt. Tokia Whiting
Sgt. Tokia Whiting

Law enforcement officer, mom, dad and friend – a student resource officer is known as all of those things and more.

A student resource officer is a police officer who spends most of his or her time at the schools making sure students are safe and the school is secure. Sgt. Tokia Whiting, SRO with the Minden Police Department, says she spends most of her time in the role of a parent, even though she deals with fights or criminal matters. She works with the kids when they get into trouble.

“A lot of the time, you’re being a parent,” she said, “because thank God we’re not like a lot of the bigger places where they have a lot of fights and major things. We have our fights, but it’s not an all the time, every day thing.”

Security is a major part of her job as well. She has to check the entrances, exits and the cameras placed throughout the school to make sure who is supposed to be there is there, and who isn’t is not.

“It’s making sure the kids stay safe and watching who’s coming on campus,” she said.

She says this past year, she’s dealt with mainly skipping, and bullying hasn’t been as bad.

Minden Police Chief Steve Cropper says there is a need for a full-time SRO at Webster Junior High School, and Officer Tina Douglas, MPD’s juvenile officer, served the junior high school full time for the last few weeks of school and will continue to do so through summer school.

Part of the reason for the need of an SRO, Cropper believes, is so much authority has been taken from the teachers in the area of discipline.
“In my opinion, they’ve taken so much away from the teachers,” he said. “When I was in school, teachers could do just about anything they needed to as far as punishment. They can’t do that anymore and the kids are out of control. Tina can walk into a classroom and they all quiet down.”

Both Cropper and Whiting say most of the fights are over a boy or a girl.

“A lot of times they can’t tell you why they’re fighting,” she said.

As far as the high school, Cropper reiterated Whiting’s sentiment that this past school year was probably one of the easiest she’s had.
He spoke highly of both officers, saying it takes a special person to handle the position of SRO.

Springhill Police Chief Will Lynd says having a student resource officer is very important because of the violence that’s taken place in schools across the country.

“Their (students) safety is his first and foremost concern,” Lynd said of his SRO Sgt. Johnny Coleman. “He knows those kids; he has close interaction with those children and a lot of times a kid won’t open up and talk to just anybody. Say a kid is being abused verbally, physically or sexually at home. They are more apt to open up to him because they see him every day.”

Coleman covers North Webster High School, Browning Elementary, Brown Upper Elementary, North Webster Junior High and Cotton Valley when needed.

When an officer spends that much time at a school, they get to know these children and sometimes are able to help a child before they get into trouble. Many times, kids will come see Whiting before they get into trouble.

“I get a whole lot of that,” she said. “If they are having problems or if they’re what we call ‘beefing’ with somebody and they want to stay out of trouble, they’ll come into my office and say, ‘I’m trying to stay out of trouble.’ Just try to solve the situation, or calm it down or eliminate it, however it can be fixed.”

Whiting says it takes a special mindset to do this job. Much of her job doesn’t so much have to do with the criminal side – although they do – it’s more about interacting with the kids.

“I consider them all my babies,” she said. “I love the job I do. They see that the police are not always what they hear on the streets. You have to love it and have the mindset to do it. Every case is different. I look at each thing I deal with differently. I treat them all like they’re my babies, because I want them to do the same for mine. I love what I do, I really do.”

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