Behind the Badge

By Andrea Hampe

Every morning unfolds with a sense of routine, a familiar cadence that sets the tone for the day ahead. As he pulls into the school parking lot, the morning light filtering through the trees, Officer Timothy Gibson reports to Stafford Middle School in the northwest quadrant of Frisco. It’s a ritual – arriving about 30 minutes before the first bell, ready to embrace the day as a Frisco Independent School District (FISD) School Resource Officer (SRO).

“I have two choices: either I’ll head to the adjacent elementary school to monitor the morning traffic, ensuring the little ones get to their classrooms safely, or I’ll station myself at the front entry of the bustling middle school,” says Officer Gibson. “It’s a pivotal moment to monitor the ebb and flow of students entering the premises, allowing me to engage in those positive interactions that can set the tone for the rest of the day.”

Once the initial rush subsides, he makes his way to his office, the hub of his daily operations. This space holds the key to coordinating with administration and staying ahead of potential challenges. Diving into the digital realm, he checks emails and voicemails that may have accumulated overnight. This is also the time to connect with the campus administration, discussing the day’s agenda – from planned fire drills to other potential issues on the horizon.

The passing periods and lunch periods become his arena for engagement as he ventures into the busy hallways, becoming a reassuring presence amidst the student’s active energy. “It’s amusing how the energy shifts – the yelling and running seem to magically dissipate when an adult, in uniform, strolls by,” says Officer Gibson. Creating a calming atmosphere becomes a goal, a way to foster a positive environment within the school’s vibrant corridors.

While the students are engrossed in their classes, he can focus on ongoing investigations and reports that demand his attention. It’s a crucial time for follow-ups, ensuring that every case is thoroughly examined and addressed. The meticulous nature of this work may not be as visible as the interactions in the hallways, but it’s an integral part of maintaining the safety and security of the school community.

As the day nears its end, Officer Gibson emerges from the confines of his office to roam the hallways once more. The students, their minds transitioning from schoolwork to the impending freedom of the day’s conclusion, filter off campus. It’s during this time that he finds himself gravitating towards the bus pickup zone, a central hub of activity as students wait to board their rides home.

In these moments, casual conversations unfold, allowing him to connect with the students on a more personal level. He becomes more than just an officer in uniform; he becomes a familiar face, a figure of trust.

As the final school bell rings and echoes fade, he takes a moment to reflect. Another day has passed, filled with interactions, challenges, and the ever-present commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of every student at Stafford Middle School. It’s not just a job; it’s a calling – a journey he embarks upon each day, dedicated to making a positive impact in the lives of those within his school community.

 

The SRO Role

Frisco ISD SROs wear multiple hats to fulfill a vital role. First and foremost, they protect their assigned schools by upholding the laws of the state. Beyond that, they often serve as informal counselors, offering support to students navigating the complexities of adolescence. Simultaneously, their ongoing efforts focus on cultivating community relationships, starting within the school walls.

“My main role on this campus [Liberty High School] is to ensure the safety of the students, staff, and facility,” says Officer Thomas Craig, SRO Liberty High School. “I also take my role as an opportunity to bridge the gap between the FPD (Frisco Police Department) and Frisco’s youth.”

In addition to maintaining an open and personable demeanor, Officer Craig places significant emphasis on follow-up with students who have interacted with the police off campus. “Whether they’ve been involved in a traffic stop, become a victim of a crime, or witnessed family violence, I check in with them, acting as an informal counselor when needed,” he says. “This approach allows me to connect with them on a personal level, sharing valuable life lessons drawn from my experiences.” Attending sporting events is another avenue he explores to foster community ties. “Not only does it provide an opportunity to support and celebrate students’ achievements, but it also serves as a platform to meet and engage with parents, reinforcing the collaborative spirit that underpins a safe and supportive school environment.”

Being actively present at various sporting events has proven instrumental in building connections and relationships within the school community. Engaging with students who participate in sports, as well as those who attend as spectators, allows SROs to establish meaningful bonds. “I seize every chance to connect with students on a personal level, steering away from a purely authoritative approach,” says Officer Zachary Jefferson, SRO Centennial High School. “Responding to their questions authentically, I strive to reveal the human side behind the uniform, encouraging a more genuine and relatable interaction.”

The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) developed the “triad” concept of school-based policing. It divides SRO’s responsibilities into three areas: public safety educator, mentor/informal counselor, and law enforcement officer.

“FISD accomplished the NASRO expectation to a ‘T,’” says Officer Gibson. “I’ve only been a member of the SRO division for about four months now, but I’ve come to realize just how much training the SRO division accomplishes with teachers, administration, and students. Whether it is through active threat training, running the Junior Police Academy, the Shattered Dreams program, or drug information presentations, it never seems to stop. There is also so much opportunity to be a positive role model/mentor while in the schools. Every student wants to be acknowledged and supported. Everyone I’ve encountered on my campus wants to build a positive relationship with the police officer, and it is my goal to engage with each student and make sure they feel supported.”

Being present in the students’ daily lives is a priority for Officer Gibson. “I actively participate in various school activities, from working at sports events to walking the hallways during passing periods. Holding the front door open every morning gives me the chance to connect with students and their parents on a regular basis,” he says.

In his office, he’s cultivated a small board game and Rubik’s cube collection, providing eighth graders with a daily diversion during lunch breaks. “If time permits, I join in the games too,” he says. The Rubik’s cubes came about when a couple of students asked him to learn to solve them, leading to a month-long journey of becoming a Rubik’s cube expert.

“Recently, my administration approached me to participate in a unique event for sixth-grade students who raised the most funds on campus,” says Officer Gibson. “Surprisingly, I received the most votes to be ‘pied’ in the face, turning it into a lighthearted and memorable experience that further strengthened our connection.”

 

A Partnership

In fostering a successful partnership between FISD and the FPD, the collaborative efforts are evident in the multifaceted role of SROs. Kevin Haller, director of FISD security, emphasizes the diverse responsibilities of the SROs who serve as sworn officers assigned to schools for the long term. “They are trained to fulfill crucial roles as law enforcement officers, law-related counselors, and law-related educators,” says Haller. “Beyond these roles, SROs actively engage with both the school and the community, serving as valuable resources for safety and security concerns.”

Jon Bodie, director of FISD emergency management, sheds light on the comprehensive collaboration between the FPD and jurisdictional police agencies within the FISD geographic footprint as they work together to ensure campus and student safety. “This partnership extends to annual safety and security audits, unauthorized visitor assessments, behavioral threat assessments, active threat training sessions, and emergency exercises. This collaboration showcases a commitment to ensuring a secure environment for students and staff.”

Furthermore, Bodie underscores the invaluable contribution of FPD’s executive leadership in providing essential insights for decision-making related to legislative mandates. “Their expertise is pivotal in navigating challenges such as House Bill 3’s armed security officer mandate, demonstrating a commitment to adapting to evolving security requirements,” says Bodie. “This collaborative approach between FISD and the FPD ensures a proactive and vigilant stance in safeguarding the educational community.”

Having SROs on campuses across the district is just one piece of the puzzle in ensuring the safety of FISD. The FDP maintains an open channel of communication with the district and actively engages in community projects.

FISD Chief Operations Officer, Scott Warstler, oversees crucial areas that contribute to an optimal learning environment, and his responsibilities span various domains, including security and emergency management. “This comprehensive approach emphasizes the dedication of FISD and the FPD to creating a safe and conducive educational atmosphere,” says Warstler.

“It’s truly a collaborative effort; I witness dedicated staff members diligently checking exterior doors every hour, reinforcing our commitment to security,” says Officer Jefferson. “Regular discussions with administration about potential security issues underscore the teamwork involved.” The district’s proactive approach is commendable, fostering a great working relationship.

Beyond presence, the FPD extends its commitment through comprehensive training sessions for FISD teachers and administration, ensuring everyone is well-prepared for emergencies. It’s a holistic approach to campus safety that emphasizes cooperation and preparedness at every level.

In the heart of FISD, the SROs’ daily commitment is more than a routine; it’s a calling to ensure the safety and well-being of every student. Their morning rituals, engagement during passing periods, and reflective moments at the day’s end symbolize a dedication that goes beyond the badge. The collaborative, purposeful, and dedicated partnership between FISD and the FPD is evident in the multifaceted role of SROs, who serve as law enforcers, mentors, and community builders. Their personal accounts shed light on the genuine connections and trust-building efforts that define the SRO role. Beyond enforcing laws, SROs actively participate in school life, creating positive environments and fostering meaningful relationships. Their impact extends beyond the school walls, embodying a commitment to safety, mentorship, and community bonds that resonate behind the badge.

 

Andrea Hampe is a content writer, mom of three boys, and a youth sports fanatic.

Officer Timothy Gibson

SRO, FISD
Stafford Middle School

 

Officer Gibson has been employed at FISD for six years as a police officer. He received his bachelor’s in social work from the University of North Texas in 2016. Before his time at FISD, he was a mental health case manager at MHMR of Tarrant County. Since becoming employed by FISD, he has become a drone operator, joined the Hostage Negotiation Team, and is part of the Crisis Intervention Team. During his last two years on patrol, he was also a field training officer and assisted with the training and onboarding of incoming new or transferring officers.

His favorite part of being an FISD SRO is the day-to-day interactions with students. He’s had an opportunity to create positive encounters that, hopefully, the students will remember when they have interactions with other uniformed officers later in life.

His goals for 2024 include continuing to make sure the students he comes in contact with have positive police interactions, with the hope that one day, as adults, they will trust and understand the police are here to help.

Officer Thomas Craig

SRO, FISD
Liberty High School

 

Officer Craig has been a police officer for approximately 15 years. He began his law enforcement career in 2008 at the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police Department. In 2010, he joined the City of Allen Police Department. Finally, in 2017, he joined the City of Frisco Police Department. During his time in law enforcement, he has served in the patrol division, traffic division, and in the school resource officer division. He is a certified master police officer, state instructor, cyber crimes investigator, TEEX accident reconstructionist, and advanced school resource officer.

His favorite part of being an SRO is being able to make a positive impact on today’s youth. “Unfortunately, today’s youth have been conditioned to not see law enforcement in a positive light and to judge the entire profession based on the actions of an individual,” says Craig. “Being an SRO allows me the opportunity to show them something different.”

Officer Craig’s goals for 2024, just as every year, include the continuation of assisting students in furthering their lives. He also keeps in mind that he is being entrusted with protecting what people value most, their children. “When a parent drops their child off in the morning, I am being entrusted with the safety of the most important thing in their lives,” says Craig. “I do my best every day to earn and maintain that trust.”

Officer Zachary Jefferson

SRO, FISD
Centennial High School

 

Officer Jefferson has been in law enforcement for ten years this May. This is his second year in the SRO unit. All previous years have been on patrol, and he is also on the Hostage Negotiator Team.

His favorite parts of being an SRO are the interactions he has with the students and the community. “When you are on patrol, it’s a totally different kind of interaction that you have when you are called to a domestic disturbance,” says Jefferson. “At the school, I get to have a lot of positive interactions, and that really makes this position unique and exciting for me.”

Officer Jefferson’s goals for 2024 include continuing to build relationships with student, staff, and parents. “There are more than 2,000 students in my school, and I would like to know all of them,” he says. “So, I clearly have a lot of work to do.”

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