Austin Students Have New Officer at School

Posted at: 09/25/2013 6:34 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- The idea is to use "visibility" as a form of enforcement.

And even with a change in the works, the goal remains the same.

"A big part of our job is being pro-active," said Austin police officer Danny Ruroden.

Their official title is "school resource officer"

"He's a counselor to the kids, he guides the kids, he's their friend when he needs to be," Austin police officer Jim Lunt explained.

After six years as an SRO, Mark Walski leaves the schools next week to become a night-shift patrol officer.

"The perk about schools is you have so much more resources you can work with, such as counselors, administration, teachers and all that is here to assist you and help you," Walski told us.

Jim Lunt will become the new resource officer at Austin high school.

"It's about being visible, being out and about, interacting with staff and the kids" Officer Jim Lunt explained.

“A police officer's best tool is just his appearance ... his uniform ... and being visible in the school just gives that sense of safety and security," Officer Mark Walski added.

“We know that without kids being in a safe learning environment, learning is going to be very difficult," said Austin High School principal brad Bergstrom.

There are 1,400 students at Austin high school, and like in any community of 1,400 people, sometimes criminal activity is going to happen.

“And part of our role is to hold them responsible if they make a less than ideal choice," principal Brad Bergstrom said.

“There are some fights that happen, but just being around them during passing time, lunch time I think it kind of deters them from wanting to go that route," said officer Danny Ruroden.

He’s gotten to know hundreds of kids as SRO at Ellis middle school in Austin. This year he's also patrolling the halls of the new I-J Holton fifth- and sixth-grade intermediate school.

"I think it makes them more comfortable coming to me, knowing I'm just a person," Ruroden explained.

The SRO positions are funded jointly by the city and the school district ... and both would tell you that it's money well spent.

"I've watched kids go from seeing the school resource officer as somebody they want to stay away from to saying ‘I need to go see that person,’" principal Brad Bergstrom said.