Ursus

Q and A with a Former Resource Officer

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James Apgar was part of a canine unit before working as a resource officer.

James Apgar was part of a canine unit before working as a resource officer.

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Contributed

James Apgar was part of a canine unit before working as a resource officer.

Evan Trock, Staff Writer

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In April, the Board of Education voted in favor of hiring SROs, short for school resource officers, to protect the schools. These armed personnel are new additions to the Westport school system, so “Ursus” reached out to a newly retired SRO who worked inside a Pennsylvania high school in the Pocono Mountains. His name is James Apgar. Here are his emailed answers to questions.

At what school were you a resource officer in and what was the school like?
I was the senior SRO at the Pocono Mountain School District which encompasses three separate campuses: the east campus, the west campus, and the clear run intermediate campus. The area is best described as culturally diverse with a 60 percent minority population. The campuses are well-maintained and in good condition but the student body is a mix of poverty and low income to upper middle class.

For how long were you a resource officer?
I was a resource officer for nine years.

How would you interact with the faculty and the administration?
I was fortunate in that I had a very good relationship with both the upper echelon central administration as well as the administration in each individual building. I also had a good interaction for the most part with the faculty, although some were not pro police at certain times.

Were you armed? How so?
Yes, I carried a standard issue Glock 40 caliber sidearm and had a police issued AR-15 rifle in the gun locker in my office. All of our SROs were similarly equipped

What extra training did you have to do?
There was an additional 80 hour training program specifically designed for school resource officers as well as various yearly training.

What feedback did you get from students about the job you had to do?
When I started, it was just before the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. From that point forward, I really felt the students were glad to have us in the school as it made them feel safe. They interacted well with all of us.

What are your favorite memories about being an officer in the school?
I spent 17 years prior to being a school resource officer as a canine handler and SWAT operator. One of the nice things about working at the school as many times you went home feeling that you actually did make a difference in someone’s life, and that it certainly wasn’t a thankless job.

What was the hardest part of your job?
Without a doubt, the hardest part of my job was dealing with students who were either bullied at school or abused at home. We always did the best we could to help them, but there were some situations that were more difficult. Another difficult thing was the fact that many of the students come from such poor economic backgrounds that things that we take for granted, such as food and clothing, were luxuries to them.

What kind of person/officer do you think makes for a successful resource officer?
Beyond a doubt, a successful resource officer has to like and understand children and young people as it is a totally different style of policing compared to working the road. The job of a resource officer is very similar to a teacher or guidance counselor in that your actions and decisions can have a great impact on the formative years of a child. I always told my other officers that you have to realize that sometimes we are some of the only normal people in their live.

What advice would you give to our resource officer who begins work in our school next year?
Quite honestly, the best advice I could give him or her is to simply understand that primarily our job is that of being the sheepdog – protecting those who can’t protect themselves – but you also have to assume the role of mentor, coach, teacher, and friend to successfully do the job.

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