On Feb. 1, Cedar County Deputy Sheriff Corporal Joshua King began his duties at the El Dorado Springs R-II School as the School Resource Officer. He reports for duty in full uniform carrying all his normal weaponry every day the school is in session and attends some sporting events upon request from the school.
His beat is the entire school and his schedule is random to make him unpredictable.
His supervisor is Cedar County Sheriff James McCrary but he works closely with all the school administrators.
The Sun decided to interview Deputy King and all the El Dorado School administrators to see how he is being received by the students.
I’ll give you the interviews in the order in which I was able to catch up with my subjects on Friday.
Middle School Principal Brad Steward on the SRO
Q. What I’m trying to do is talk to each principal about the SRO. How it’s working out. I’m going to talk to the SRO himself. Then I will give the article to Mr. Koca and the SRO to make sure I don’t give away any security secrets.
How’s the SRO working out for Middle School?
Outstanding. He does a wonderful job of making his presence felt – visibility in the hallway, visibility in the lunchroom, going in and out of the classrooms, going in the gym with PE classes. He is doing a wonderful job of interacting with the kids. He’s got a good personality. Kinda jokes around with and has a good relationship with the kids. He’s just off to an awesome start.
Q. Do you think the kids trust him and would tell him about anything they thought was amiss?
That’s a good question and my statement to that would be: He is working on gaining that trust. Because he is making himself visible and they at not seeing him as a stranger. Like I said, Kenny, he is walking alongside the tables in the cafeteria interacting with these kids and their groups of buddies. He’s doing a wonderful job of forging those relationships where that trust factor can be established.
Q. That’s what will make him more effective so instead of just him, he will have over a thousand eyes and ears.
Exactly right. He knows the importance of gaining the respect and the trust of those kids and establishing that relationship. He’s working at it and it’s paying off. The kids, now when they see him, it’s “Hey, Deputy King,” not “There’s a police officer in the building.”
Q. I understand from David Rotert that he has 11 years experience on the force.
That is right. He spent 11 years as a deputy in Cedar County so he is familiar with our demographic, our area and things like that which helps out immensely as well. His kids are in school in Stockton, but he has kids. So he understands the importance of establishing those relationships and how to build that trust with the kids.
I am very pleased with him. He’s going to be an outstanding guy. I enjoy conversing with him. I had to have him involved in just a couple of things. He handled himself very professionally and it’s great to have him on board.
School Resource Officer Corporal Joshua King
Q. What I want to do is talk to you a little bit about your job and how it’s going. I just interviewed Brad Steward, the Middle School Principal. I’ll call Supt. Koca, David Rotert and Tracy Lanser.
How’s it going to you?
Q. Why did you get into law enforcement?
I knew it was either law enforcement or the military. My hero is my uncle who is a sergeant on the Osage Beach Police Force. I chose law enforcement. I hope to inspire other young people to get into law enforcement. I have a brother who is seven years younger than me and he is getting ready to enter the law enforcement academy.
Q. I’ve been told by two different sources that you have been on the force 11 years.
Q. So you are not a greenhorn at this. Had you worked as a SRO anywhere?
Q. Did you have to have any special training?
I am currently taking some training. There’s supposed to be some more specialized training for me down the road.
Q. How do you like it?
I love it.
Q. That’s good. It always helps if you like your job.
I understand you have children in school in Stockton.
Yes, a 10 year old and a 13 year old.
Q. So you have some experience with the age that you’re dealing with.
I do. I actually spent a lot of time in Stockton School volunteering in the Watch Dog Program just to build relationships with the kids in the school district. I enjoyed that a lot.
Q. Do you think the kids trust you? The reason I say that: Do you think if something suspicious was going on, they’d tell you?
I do. They are still trying to feel me out, some of them. I’m an unknown element so far. More and more daily I’m getting into their lives on a personal relational basis so they are warming up and I think the trust factor will grow.
Q. What do you do? I don’t want any secrets. I don’t want to compromise security in any way.
Be as visible as possible in different areas of the school throughout the day. Lunch time is big. Checking doors. Making sure there is nothing going on outside in the parking lot. When I’m not on the beat, I monitor the cameras. We have a pretty good camera system in the school. When I get a chance I slide into classrooms or stop by where kids are playing sports and just interact with them.
Q. Why do they call it SRO instead of just officer at school or something?
SRO stands for School Resource Officer. The idea is for the officer to be able to connect the school and the student body with resources within the community if there is an issue. If there is a health issue, we might be able to get them in contact with the perfect resources outside of school. If there is a criminal element going on, maybe I know of some resourcee they can access outside of the school system to help combat their criminal issue. Things of that nature.
Q. Have you had any problems that you can talk about?
Not so far. It’s a good group of kids. You have minor stuff that you have to deal with in school.
Q. Do you go to sporting events like basketball games?
If there is an event the school would like for me to attend, they just notify me and I show up. There will be at least some of the football and basketball games. Anytime where there might be some conflict.
Q. What do you like most about the job?
Hands down, it’s hanging out with kids all day long. I’m a relational person so developing relationships with the kids is No. 1 to me.
Q. Anything else you want people to know?
This is an awesome job in a good school district.
Elementary School Principal Tracy Lanser
Q. I just got off the phone with Deputy King. He’s a nice guy.
He is so nice. We are just loving him.
Q. I decided I wanted to do an article on the School Resource Office and the best way for me was to talk to him and all the administrators.
How are the kids reacting to him?
Oh, gosh. I think they are loving him. He’s high fiving and fist bumping when he meets them in the hallway. I walked by the library the other day just before school started and he was standing in there working a puzzle with some of the kids.
When he interviewed, one of the main things he mentioned was that he wanted to build relationships with the kids and that was really important to us. He wants to bring respect back for that authority that a lot of kids are either afraid of officers or they hate them for whatever reason.
That was one of the things that we liked about him. And he’s walking it. He’s doing what he can to get to know the kids and to get to know the teachers. Every day he’s out and about dealing with the kids. We love that.
Q. It’s important that he have the trust of the kids so if they learn about something suspicious they’ll tell him. So instead of just two eyes and ears, he’ll have well over a thousand. And kids, if they are like our cats, they know everything that is going on.
He’s just a pleasant guy to be around, too.
And he has kids 10 and 13 in Stockton. He relates really well to kids, I think.
Q. And we all know none of them come with an instruction book.
Do you think the kids will trust the SRO?
Well, it’s so new. I definitely think they will. But I think they are still getting to know him. I think when it warms up, he’s going to try to hit outdoor recess a little bit. I think he will gain their trust. But he has a lot of territory to cover.
He mentioned that was one of the things he wanted to do, get outside and play with the kids some.
His schedule is unpredictable and that’s the way we want it. We don’t want him to be in the same place every day. So at times, he’s in our building, then he is in the High School and Middle School. He kinda changes it up a little bit.
I think the kids are getting to know him. I think they are just loving him.
He has helped me with a truancy issue. I appreciate his help with that.
He’s got a lot of learning to do – the lay of the land, the staff. We sure do like him.
High School Principal David Rotert on SRO
Q. I plan to interview all the administrators on their take on the new School Resource Officer.
It’s been a home run hire so far.
Q. How are the kids reacting to him?
Really well. Really well. He does a great job. His office is right there in the lunch room so each lunch shift he is out there meeting with kids, making connections, building relationships. So those kids can go talk to him when they have issues or problems or just walking down the hallway they will give him a high five or “Hey, how are ya doin?’ ” His personality is really fitting in well with the kids we have here.
There’s going to be things that come up that kids may be more willing to talk to him as opposed to maybe an administrator or a teacher. In his experience in law enforcement he kinda has an eye out for anything that looks off, or weird or strange.
One of the things when we interviewed him, he mentioned the disconnect that kids today have with law enforcement, part of it coming from social media. Kids don’t like police officers. They mistrust them. His goal is to change that starting with our kids here in El Dorado Springs. They can see somebody that they can trust. Somebody that they can respect and look up to. And I think he is going to do a great job at that.
He’s here for the kids. He’s not here for the paycheck. The kids can see how genuine he is.
Q. Well, I just wanted to see how you liked him.
He’s been a great addition for us. I look forward to him being here a long time.
Superintendent Mark Koca on SRO
Q. How’s the construction going? Is it over?
We had final inspection last week. Turned up a few small things that still need to be addressed. Probably in the next month, we’ll close the books on that project.
It looks like we are going to get several tens of thousands back on the contract because of the construction management at risk. But I don’t know how much that will be yet.
Q. So that was a good choice?
It worked out very well for us.
Q. How is the elevator working out?
Well, when it works, it works very well. They love it.
We’ve had service problems with it the company is trying to address. And I’m sure they will. We’re waiting on a circuit board to be replaced. It could have been a voltage spike or something. We have to reset it every time we use it right now which is annoying.
Q. So it’s not operator error, it’s electronics?
Right. And that will be warranty work.
Q. I already talked to Brad Steward and Tracy Lanser. How’s the SRO working out?
He’s only been on campus a couple of weeks and he’s already starting to build a relationship with the kids which is exactly what he needs to be doing. Obviously we haven’t had any crises yet for him to intervene on. He’s learning the ropes, learning the district and learning the people. He’s got the perfect personality for it.