The Cop Column
July, 2004
Sgt. Rick Hord
Public Information Officer

Some Things to Know Before School Starts

At the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office, we're proud of our School Resource Officers. A unit of 20 Deputy Sheriffs with specialized training are assigned full-time to serve our school system. A deep-rooted commitment to the safety of everybody at our schools comes from the top: Before he was elected Sheriff in 1996, Charlie Morris was a School Resource Officer... the first Resource Officer in Okaloosa County.

Every middle school in the Okaloosa District has a full-time Resource Officer, as do the K-12 schools at Baker and Laurel Hill, the Okaloosa Academy in Crestview, and the Okaloosa Applied Technology Center on Lewis Turner Boulevard in Fort Walton Beach. The four large high schools: Choctawhatchee, Fort Walton Beach, Niceville, and Crestview, each have two full-time Resource Officers, one male and one female. The Resource Officers also serve the public elementary schools on a visiting basis.

Some of the SROs have offered to share some advice for parents and students as the 2004-2005 school year approaches:

1-Get to know your Resource Officer. It's an unfortunate fact that for most Americans, cops are strangers. Your SRO wants to change that.

2-Cellular phones: the pros and cons. They can be a terrific tool for personal safety and security. But the ability to stay in touch does pose some serious concerns, beyond simply a classroom distraction. Some students use cellular phones and instant text messaging to set up drug deals, arrange inappropriate rendezvous, skip school, cheat on tests, and other nefarious purposes. Students and parents should understand the reason for their school's cellular telephone policies... and heed them.

3-Thieves lurk the hallways. Theft is probably a major problem in every school in America. Students should not bring valuables or large amounts of cash to school. If you have a locker, keep it locked, and don't share the combination with others.

4-Is there a drug problem in my school? Yes. It doesn't matter where your school is, you can be sure somebody is bringing drugs to it on any given day. Almost without exception, when drugs are discovered on campus in Okaloosa County, the source can be traced to a student's home. Sometimes, it's marijuana or other illegal drugs... but more often, it's prescription pills and over-the-counter medications being sold and shared. One student admitted he swiped a few pills from each bottle when he visited his grandmother, figuring she'd never notice.

5-Don't buy supplies until you know what to get. Some schools have special requirements for, or prohibitions against, backpacks, certain types of notebooks, clothing, etc.

6-Be part of the solution. A talk with a teacher or Resource Officer, or an anonymous call to Student Crime Stoppers (863-TIPS or 1-888-654-TIPS) to turn in a thief, a drug peddler, or a weapon-toter is not being a snitch. It's being a good citizen... and possibly a life-saver.