Editor's Note: This is the first story in a series looking at this area's school resource officers and the work they do to keep local students and schools safe.
Shawnee Police Cpl. Shawn Parsons has worked as a school resource officer for Shawnee Public Schools for the last five years, and in that time, Parsons said he has kept thousands of children safe and built relationships with numerous students.
Parsons explained his 20th anniversary on the job as a police officer is coming up in April and after spending the last five years patrolling SHS, the best aspect of his job is getting to know the students.
"To come over and interact with the kids and get to know their story and get to know what's going on with them and help maybe change that cycle (is the best)," Parsons said.
Parsons said after going through a divorce and working in retail management for 11 years, he decided he wanted to make a change and give back to the community.
"I didn't feel like I was doing anything that benefitted anybody and so...I tested and got hired and I've loved everyday since," Parsons said.
Though Parsons is a police officer with the Shawnee Police Department, his full-time assignment is to patrol and work at Shawnee High School each day.
"Day-to-day it's mainly just making sure everybody is safe. Making sure that there's nobody that's not supposed to be here (and) if somebody does get out of control, try to help deescalate that," Parsons said. "We mainly are here for the criminal issues and to assist the school if they have anything they can't handle."
The resource officer said he appreciates those students who improve after he shows some interest in them, whether it be asking them about their grades or other aspects of their lives.
"I still have parents come up to me at graduation thanking me for helping their kid, (saying) that I should be up there on stage handing out the diploma so that's very rewarding— to know that you're making a difference in people's lives," Parsons said.
However, Parsons said, keeping around 1,200 students, the faculty and staff of SHS safe everyday is not without its hardships.
"The world that people live in is not the same that police officers live in. We're aware of the dangers," Parsons said. "I want to make sure every single one of these guys is Ok and...when you've got almost 1,200 of them going different directions all the time and not seeing the big deal in some of the safety things that you put in place it makes it difficult sometimes...they don't understand why we do some of the things we do."
Parsons said he and the other school resource officers act as the bridge between the schools and situations outside the school.
The resource officer also explained he handles intruder situations, upset parents, oversees drills for intruders, coordinates security for sporting and social events and any other aspects that involve the safety of SHS.
According to Parsons, people typically assume resource officers have no face-to-face contact with students, but that is not the case.
"I don't think people understand how much we interact with the kids day-to-day...that's one of the best aspects of being a school resource officer and keeping the school safe is building those relationships with the kids because they get to know you (and) they trust you," Parsons said.
When disciplining students, Parsons said he's firm, but tries to be understanding and listens to the student if he or she needs to talk.
"Everybody needs to be held accountable...That's the way we learn...I show them that I care and that I'm holding them accountable out of love and some of them have never seen that,” Parsons said. “Kids aren't dumb. They can see whether you care about them or not...they know I care about them.”
Parsons explained to be a good resource officer, one has to be mature, patient, understanding and have a kind heart.
The resource officer said patrolling a school is very different than patrolling the streets of Shawnee.
"I love the fact that I've got time to interact. When we do have something that has happened, I get to actually talk to (the students)," Parsons said. "I get to explain. I get to try and change that behavior and talk it out with them,"
Parsons explained he has a general love for people and that's why he loves his job and feels he is good at it.
"When you're up here with the school you're with up here eight hours a day. You're not really in a patrol car out on your own so you become family with them," Parsons said. "I enjoy what I do. I enjoy being around everyone here...I look forward to the graduation time to see the success stories."