Editor's Note: This is the second story in a series looking at this area's school resource officers and the work they do to keep local students and schools safe.
For over 13 years, Cpl. Allen Nichols has been a Shawnee police officer and he is entering his 10th year as the Resource Officer at Shawnee Middle School (SMS).
According to Nichols, he became a police officer because he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and help protect the people in his community.
“My dad was in law enforcement. He worked for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and then he was the sheriff of Creek County…and so I grew up around it…and I kind of gravitated to it for that reason I think,” Nichols said.
The resource officer explained his day-to-day duties consist of patrolling the halls of SMS, checking locked doors and ensuring that all students, faculty and staff are safe.
“You just never really know for sure what’s going to happen. You may receive some information outside of school. We solve some crimes from students coming in and telling me ‘hey I saw this in my neighborhood today,”’ Nichols said. “The longer I’m here, the better relationship I have with the kids…they’ll trust you and they’re more willing to come talk to you.”
For Nichols, the best aspect of his job is interacting with students and making a difference in their lives.
“(I try) to keep them on the right track because this is a pretty crucial age. They could go one direction or the other if they’re not directed properly sometimes and our number one priority is to keep them and the staff safe…but probably the best part is working with the kids,” Nichols said.
The police officer said his relationship with the 700 or so students he protects is good because he’s worked hard to earn their trust and bond with them.
“I think the longer I’ve been here, the better it gets because I’ve dealt with siblings already and sometimes parents. We already know each other and have a good relationship so the longer I’ve been here the easier it’s become,” Nichols said.
In addition to SMS, Nichols said he patrols Will Rogers and Sequoyah Elementary Schools.
While he has great relationships with the students, Nichols said he still has to step in if a they act out or a criminal situation arises.
“It really is determined by the principal or the staff…sometimes they will need some direction and a lot of the time it’s not pursued criminally. We try to redirect them and let them know what the punishment would be,” Nichols said.
The resource officer explained he is a father of three and because of his children, he is able to have the patience and heart to be successful at his job.
“I know a lot of the time I’ll see these kids' behavior and I’ll kind of know what they’re going through and what they’re feeling just because of their age in reference to some of my kids,” Nichols said.
Nichols said there are several differences between being a street officer and a resource officer including the way one treats people and one’s mentality.
“When you’re on the street…your guard is up constantly…It took a while to (redirect) my mind to being a little more with my guard let down and passive,” Nichols said. “I’m still on the lookout…but it’s not for what’s necessarily in the building.”
The police officer said it’s common for people to assume he and his fellow resource officers are glorified security guards, but Nichols explained this is far from the truth.
“A lot of times we build these relationships with these kids and they’re able to tell us terrible things…you have a lot more branches into the community than a security guard,” Nichols said.
While Nichols enjoys his job and bonding with students, he said it can be challenging.
“The patience to deal with the kids (is hard) and they’re adolescent behavior…you have to handle it with a pair of gloves,” he said.
Nichols said when he received this assignment nearly a decade ago he sought the opportunity himself.
“Dealing with juveniles is not for everybody. You really have to have the right mentality to be successful at it,” Nichols said. “I put in for it because I thought I’d enjoy working with the kids and I do…”
As time goes on, Nichols said he has no intention of leaving and plans on mentoring students and keeping them, the faculty and the staff of SMS safe.
“I look forward to continuing in this assignment and just continuing to work with these kids and the staff…and continue to just help them stay in the right track."