The importance of school resource officers

ALTOONA. Wis. (WEAU) The incidents at Waukesha South High School and Oshkosh West High school each involved a school resource officer and show the importance of a district having one in its buildings.

Officer Tim Peterson has been in law enforcement for 10 years. Now, as school resource officer, Peterson said his job title may have changed, but his duties as an officer have not.

“It's basically a small city in itself,” Peterson said. “I'm dealing a lot of the same issues as road officers do, it is just within these walls of the school.”

Officer Peterson is in his first year as the school resource officer for the Altoona School District.

“I was just learning the job at the start of the year,” Peterson said. “I’m starting to get my feet under it now.”

But Peterson said he is familiar with Altoona High.

“I graduated from here back in 2003.” He said. “It's kind of nostalgic; walking the same halls I used to in high school.”

Peterson also walks the halls of the Altoona Elementary and Middle Schools.

“I take probably 12,000 to 15,000 steps a day,” he said. “It's all a challenge. It is different than a patrol officer; it's a challenge every day. Whether it could be dealing with a kindergartner who's having a really bad day or a senior who is having drug issues at the school, it varies every day.”

Peterson said his main goal is to build positive relationships with students.

“I don't want them to see officers as negative; I want them to them as positive,” he said. “Someone they can approach and trust.”

For staff, Peterson provides another outlet for students to talk to.

“He's been excellent in times of crisis as well,” said Altoona High School principal Jim Reif. “Whether it is a student having suicidal thoughts or students having challenges at home, he is always there to listen and guide them and help them.”

Reif said it also provides a sense of security to the district.

“Kids know that he is always around and he is able to approach them. By that same token, if they are having bad thought, he is always around. He is always in full uniform and fully equipped to do his job.”

“If they're having a bad day they can come talk to me, or if they know of something bad that is happening in school, they can come talk to me about it,” Peterson said.

Officer Peterson also said since he became a school resource officer, it has taught him to be more patient and learn how to handle a wide variety of situations.