As a School Liaison Officer in Delta I have come to realize the demands of my assignment require me to fall back to my experiences as a Police Officer, a community member, a parent and colleague to some amazing dedicated teachers.
The unique position brings an array of challenges and responsibility calling for the mandate as a police officer and public safety be met with leadership in mind, positive encouragement, fatherhood experience and community knowledge and involvement.
Each day is different with unique demands and opportunity to change a youth’s life in some small yet measurable way. I may be camping for 3 days with grade 6 students experiencing the fun of outdoor learning and the occasional case of home sickness, presenting drug and safety presentations to grade 10 students, conducting serious investigations and arrests or assisting a student and family with a tragedy effecting them.
The ultimate goal is the safety and future of our students to understand the danger and struggles facing them and empower them to make educated choices. These choices are often based on past, positive experiences, truthful information and the security of knowing that parents, teachers and the police care and support them; that we are all are working together toward a common goal.
Our youth need to understand that not every choice may be the right one and that failure can be a learning lesson. I reference a past quote repeated in my presentations often “If you don’t learn from your failures, you will fail to learn”. In every school environment you will see those who lead and those who are more comfortable following. I believe both learn from each other. A Delta school today offers every opportunity for a student to excel and be their very best: To learn academically, socially and discover their futures.
I remember sitting down for lunch with Chief Cessford in the fall of 2003. I was a new Constable to the Delta Police. Chief Cessford was explaining the management and leadership in a then 115 year old Delta Police Department. The Chief explained that, “you can manage corporate policies, plans, procedures and mandates etc… but you can’t manage people. You must lead people”.
This philosophy is instilled in all our constables. To be leaders in our community and to provide leadership examples in all that we do. In turn, I strive to encourage students at all ages to be leaders; To choose to lead in their lives, and their futures.
The daily challenges for a student today often involve peer pressure. This can influence choices that may include drug and alcohol use, social media, bullying, risky behavior, etc. I explain in presentations to our elementary students that they need to have a plan in place. A plan rehearsed in their mind about what they would do if offered drugs or alcohol. In the absence of a plan they may be more inclined to try it, sometimes out of peer pressure or just the awkwardness of the moment and the situation at hand with no reference to fall back on. A plan can be as simple as just saying no, walking away or sensing your surroundings early and knowing when your conscience tells you to leave.
We know that students learn by practicing and training, and in a pressured or critical situation they will resort back to what they have practiced and rehearsed.
An example of this was when 400 children outside in the play ground at lunch heard the fire bell go off from the school building. The children ran from the play ground back to the school, down the halls and into their class rooms, standing quietly in rows beside their desks to eventually be escorted outside through the fire exits by the teacher. When asked why they would run back into what could have been a burning building, they replied “because that’s what we practiced…to stand in rows beside our desks when the fire bell goes off and wait for the teacher to walk us out.” We now encourage at least one fire drill a year at lunch and have the kids assemble at the rear of the school field.
Starting in elementary school we often associate simple phrases to help students remember safety plans. Action plans for students to do something rather than nothing when a critical incident arises. Examples are “stop, drop and roll” for catching fire, “drop, cover and hold” for earth quake and “run, hide and fight” for an assailant within the school. The reality today is youth rely on practice drills, rehearsals and straight talk about personal safety in and out of school.
The worst case scenario for a school liaison officer during his tenure is to be faced with a student losing their life or being seriously injured during the many weekends and holiday breaks through out the year. I spend hours engaged in open discussions with the high school students talking about risky behavior associated to drugs, alcohol, and dangerous activities. We know that seat belts, bike helmets and life preservers save lives but only if you choose to use them. Again these are choices, some are governed by law but ultimately we as police, parents and teachers are not always going to be there when they are faced with making those choices. The same goes with drug use, alcohol, social media, etc. We hope that through presentations, education, trust and respect, the students have the facts and tools to make the right choices.
I have had the pleasure of seeing the rewards of my work and the work of all the Delta School Liaison officers past and present. I have had phone calls from past students who call to thank me and catch up on what they are doing in their lives as well as parents who meet me for the first time, only knowing me through the words of their children but want to extend their appreciation for the work we do for their families. Being a School Liaison Officer is truly a rewarding police experience.