When your bus pulls up to school and you step outside, you may notice a police car parked up on the curb. Most of you have realized that this is a daily occurrence, and have seen our resident policeman, Officer Olson, on staff here at school. After an interview with our principal, Mr. Affeldt, I was enlightened on the subject of police at Memorial and their role in our school community.
Lily Lowndes: What is your opinion on having police at our school?
Jay Affeldt: I think it’s incredibly helpful to have a close relationship with the police, and to have someone from the city of Madison Police Department at Memorial. I think that Officer Olson’s title as Educational Resource Officer sort of conveys our open vision for his position here on staff. Along with all other staff, our focus in working with Officer Olson is making sure that relationships are the foundation for everything we do. Day in and day out, he is trying to what all our staff is trying to do which is just get to know students, [and] build relationships. The more we understand, the more we are able to help and provide support, and lead everybody in the right direction.
LL: What are the main strengths of having the police on stand-by?
JA: I think there are significant benefits that go beyond just ability to build relationships; I think if I were a student here, being able to build a relationship with a police officer […] allows me the opportunity to ask questions and to have real conversations about real issues. If ever I were to find myself in a situation outside of school, I would’ve already established trust in working with police through my relationship with Officer Olson, so that I would have a better understanding of what I could do to keep myself safe. And perhaps then how I could interact in positive ways with the police. I think it’s also beneficial for police, through Officer Olson to get to know our students. Every day at 3:36 when our students head out on buses and cars into the community, there’s all sorts of potential for things to go wrong that might involve police. It could be just a car accident, or maybe it’s something else. Whoever is responding first to those things in the community, either Officer Olson, or someone that knows Officer Olson has made that connection […] it’s not just a total stranger walking up on a situation, it’s someone who knows students by name. Then they are able to intervene in a more meaningful and trust-based way. Swirl all of that together, and there is just so much benefit to having an officer here on staff. We can be proactive as opposed to just reactive.
LL: Are there any weaknesses to having an officer posted at school?
JA: I think the perception is just simply having an officer on campus will increase the chances that things otherwise dealt with on a school district behavior level would be unfairly escalated to a police level. Just in the first weeks here we don’t have any situations that I can think of where anything close to that has happened. We work closely with Officer Olson to bring him in on situations to help problem solve before we get to a [place] where he would need to be involved from a citation or an enforcement level. Our approach to behavior and discipline using a more restorative approach, is a belief we share with the police department, and they’re shifting many of their practices to a restorative level as well. We know that as soon as we approach any given situation our interest is the same as Officer Olson’s interests; which is to de-escalate and problem solve before things escalate. In that regard, I can’t think of any reasons why it wouldn’t be best to have officers in schools
LL: And lastly, in your recent recollection, were there any incidences where a policeman or woman had to intervene in student behavior or otherwise?
JA: Officer Olson is involved in a lot of stuff that goes on here today; it could be presenting to classes, or it could be meeting with a group of students that have a concern or some questions about something that might’ve happened. I can think of one instance in particular where there was a student that had something unfortunate happen off campus and didn’t know what to do, and came to us. We connected immediately with Officer Olson, who then was sort of able to walk through the next steps in understanding how to handle that. The examples that most come to mind are where he is used as a resource to either help students understand something, or to help students problem solve and respond. I think in that regard, Officer Olson is learning very quickly about the approach that we take here at school, and it’s great to have him part of our team.
In doing this interview, I learned that Officer Olson’s job differs greatly from a regular policeman or woman’s daily routine. He is one of four officers posted at each of the four big high schools here in Madison, and his official title is Educational Resource Officer. He does not make any arrests, and is instead here to give advice to students and bridge the gap between the police and members of our school. If you have any questions or concerns, he will be there listen to and support you. This is Officer Olson’s first year working at Memorial, and we are so happy to welcome him into our JMM family!
– Lily Lowndes
Categories: Student Life