SRO Jim Barnes with ninth grade student Elijah Kingston.
This story is the last in a three-part series.
School Resource Officers (SRO) are a priority for Lake Stevens School District. A symbiotic partnership with the Lake Stevens Police Department is fostering positive relationships with young adults. And building relationships based on trust and high expectations is what’s occurring at Cavelero Mid High.
Superintendent David Burgess places a high value on the presence of an SRO at Cavelero. He notes that it’s important for students to view police officers as part of the community, to develop respectful relationships, and to see police as allies and not adversaries.
“The SRO position transcends being just an officer,” Superintendent Burgess said. “He is another authority figure in general, and it’s a critical time in the development of young adults to see beyond the uniform, to the human behind the shield who has dedicated his life to protect and serve.”
Officer Jim Barnes is a 25-year veteran who has dedicated his life to public service.
In August, when he started his work as a School Resource Officer at Cavelero, he did so because he likes working with kids. He also had heard rumors that Cavelero was a tough school—rumors of gangs and drugs.
Coming on board at the beginning of the school year to work with the new principal and associate principals seemed like a perfect time to start. In August they collaborated to set a climate of high expectations for behavior and academic achievement beginning with the first day of school.
When asked about perceptions he had, Barnes was quick to share, “I just don’t see it here. Our issues are pretty typical for this age and rise to the level of drama, or mean behavior or a rare fight.”
Barnes went on to say being firm on enforcing dress code and behavior has helped to communicate to kids the goal of high expectations for all students.
One student who is trying harder in school is Elijah Kingston. He is a ninth grader with a calm presence who discovered this year that he wants to go into law enforcement. Kingston signed up for the Lake Stevens Explorers Program and loves it.
“I especially like the ride-alongs with Officer Holmes, you just never know what to expect.,” he said.
The Explorers program is open to young men and women ages 14 through 20 years old that have an interest in learning more about careers in the field of law enforcement. It provides educational training, career orientation experiences, leadership opportunities and community service activities.
Officer Barnes with Vice-Principal Josh Rosenbach.
Lake Stevens Police Chief Randy Celori sees the job of School Resource Officer as being an asset to the police department and community. One goal of the SRO is to develop relationships with students to instill a sense of trust and approachability, and to provide a different perspective on what law enforcement is all about—not just traffic stops and putting people in jail.
Lake Stevens Police Department has put a priority on community policing which has a pro-active approach and the SRO position reinforces that philosophy.
The district’s emphasis on the SRO position produces tangible results. Having a police officer on campus is helpful in many ways. But statistics and budget figures can’t quantify the value that a unique role model like Barnes has in a middle school environment.
Perhaps the influence Barnes provides is best summarized by the fact that the kids genuinely enjoy his presence. Middle school age students aren’t always the easiest audience for adults to please, and they’ve been known to be wary of authority figures. So it’s not taken for granted when a student like Kingston says that it’s his goal to become a police officer—like Barnes—but maybe working in a big city instead.
“He’s a great guy,” Kingston remarked. “He’s nice to kids, teaches respect and has an understated approach. He has a positive influence here.”