A Day in the Life of a School Resource Officer - NBC 6 South Florida

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A Day in the Life of a School Resource Officer

Security is more than just locking the doors -- mental health is a critical aspect of the overall effort to keep campuses peaceful.

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    A Day in the Life of a School Resource Officer

    NBC 6's Ari Odzer follows around school resource officer Deputy Omar Osbourne for a day.

    (Published Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018)

    Following Deputy Omar Osbourne around is an exercise in, well, exercise. The Broward Sheriff's Office school resource officer is in constant motion at Rickards Middle School in Oakland Park. Patrolling, while simultaneously greeting students, parents, and teachers, Osbourne seems to be everywhere at once.

    "If you see something, whatcha gonna do? Say something! That's the rule, you have any issues, you let me know, you let your teacher know, OK? Alright guys, have a great day," the deputy says to a group of kids waiting to enter the school in the morning.

    Everyone at Rickards knows Deputy Osbourne, and he seems to know everyone as well.

    "Straight A's? Oh my goodness, give me a high five! You got straight A's, too? High five!" Osbourne says to two girls who could not possibly smile any wider.

    As parents drop their kids off, Osbourne opens the car doors, greeting students and moms and dads by name. It's all high fives and smiles with a purpose.

    "It's very important to build a rapport with the kids, students are our eyes and ears, they talk amongst one another, they're on social media, they know what's going on, you build that rapport with students, they're likely to tell you what's going on," Osbourne said.

    Ever since the enormous tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in which the SRO on duty was accused of failing to stop the shooter, every SRO knows the job has changed. Parents are simply more worried about safety when they send their kids to school.

    "I think about that every day, and that's why I enjoy what I do," Osbourne said.

    As the deputy and a school safety monitor patrol outside the school building, checking gates and exterior doors to make sure they're locked, Osbourne says it takes a team to keep a school safe. The SRO can't be everywhere at once.

    "We make sure there's nothing suspicious, want to make sure all the kids are in," Osbourne says as we follow him around the campus.

    The role of an SRO has changed over the years. It's not enough to simply patrol the perimeter -- the SRO's are mentors, especially for the impressionable sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

    "He engages the kids and creates an atmosphere where a child can go to him and say, look at this project, or I'm having a situation and I need your help with it," said Dr. Washington Collado, the principal at Rickards Middle.

    "They're in middle school, at the age where they want to go this way and that way, so right now we want to help them get to the next level and mold them into great students," Osbourne said.

    Osbourne pops into random classes as well, giving short talks about cyber safety, reporting anything suspicious, bullying and reminding the kids that they can talk to him or their teachers about any issues they might be having.

    "We get them on a one-on-one level, sometimes we have group sessions where we can focus on the kids and see, what other areas are they struggling?" Osbourne explained.

    So security is more than just locking the doors -- mental health is a critical aspect of the overall effort to keep campuses peaceful. Osbourne says he never stops thinking that he's relied on to be the first line of defense, to provide a sense of calm at school, and to be every kid's cheerleader.

    "Your job is to motivate him to get the same grades you get," Osbourne is saying to a couple of boys. "Good job, I want to see straight A's again!"

    Both boys walk away beaming. The SRO moves on to the next group of kids, armed with his smile, his good nature, and of course, a gun he hopes will never need to be used.

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