Law enforcement presence. School Resource Officer Norman Wilder walks the halls with students between classes at Booneville High School last Thursday.
Door check. SRO Norman Wilder checks an exterior door at Booneville Junior High School. It is a practice he repeats often throughout the day.
Unlike most employees, the Booneville School District’s new student resource officer does not have a definable schedule.
Among the new faces on campus, his office is at the junior high school, but officer Norman Wilder might be found on any of the three campuses.
Wilder is at each of the campuses multiple times each day and while some of the times could be deemed predictable, most are not.
The benefits are far reaching, from being a sounding board, to being a deterrent, to handling situations.
“I love it, it’s great,” Wilder said last Thursday. “I’m starting to get a rapport with students here. We hope to show another part of law enforcement — I’m here to help, be a mentor. If they need someone to talk to I’m here.
“Kids are starting to come and talk freely, and that’s what I want.”
The push to create an SRO began two years ago but the City of Booneville was unable to help fund the planned shared position for the officer.
In the wake of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, school district officials took extra security steps and in March of this year worked out a deal wherein it will reimburse the city the officer’s salary and Wilder will use accumulated vacation time during the summer months and complete the rest of a calendar year on the BPD staff.
When superintendent John Parrish recommended creating the position he said funding for the position is possible through extra money the school district receives because it has 70 percent of its population eligible for the free or reduced lunch programs.
Wilder believes his varying schedule of walking through the halls — with and without students — repeatedly checking exterior doors — all are locked while class is in session and are checked at the end of the day — observing or patrolling parking lots, directing traffic and because he is a certified handler, having a K-9 officer at his disposal, may make a student, or even faculty member think twice before doing something questionable.
“It’s nice since we have somebody there, if something goes on (school officials) are going to call Norm,” said BPD Chief Al Brown. “I don’t have to pull my guys from something they may be doing and send them to the school.”
“They know I’m going to be here every day now,” said Wilder. “And I’ll be at all functions. I feel like this position will be a deterrent to bad things that can happen at a school.”
That isn’t to say that there won’t be instances where a law enforcement officer isn’t necessary. Wilder said he was working a theft case Thursday afternoon.
A certified investigator, Wilder has 20 years of law enforcement under his belt, starting in Northwest Arkansas before moving to Logan County Sheriff’s Department, the Charleston PD and now in Booneville.
Wilder completed SRO training through the Criminal Justice Institute in June and started at the school one week before students arrived last Monday in order to familiarize himself with the staff, facilities, and his duties.