DICKSON, Tenn. (WTVF) — Ahead of the first day of school, Dickson County and City school resource officers (SROs) participated in training to help prepare them to respond to any incident.
"We're a teacher and a police officer all in one... we wear so many hats. We're not only law enforcement officers, but we have to teach; just being that ear to listen sometimes. I mean, that takes a lot out of your day just hearing what some of these kids are going through and, you know, helping them guide them to what anything that we can do to help them," explained City of Dickson Police Department School Resource Officers Sergeant Eric Chandler.
Chandler oversees Dickson County City School's nine SROs and helps them with investigations.
"Most of them have went to the Dickson County Schools. So they're getting to work in some of the schools that they walked around in as a student," he said. "I feel like that brings a sense of value to them that they want to you know, do good things for our community."
"Every one of our SROs has kids of their own. So that's they're usually their driving force they try to teach they try to treat every kid like it's their own and bringing that mindset into things," explained Chandler. " The biggest, big concern right now with what's going on in the world. Luckily, we come from a department that we trained nonstop on what to do with these situations that are arising. So I feel like we're ahead of the game with our training."
In addition to preparing for school shootings, SROs in Dickson County are trained to help with bullying, fighting, vaping and other behaviors that could escalate to violence.
"Whenever people think of an SRO, a lot of times, they directly relate that with school shootings. But honestly, it's the relationships that the SROs develops with the kids," stated City of Dickson Police Department Special Services Lieutenant Jessica Blackwell. "Sometimes they just needed advice. Come in, let them talk. I think a lot of times what they needed is just to talk."
"I've had kids tell me everything," said Blackwell. "They find that one person that they trust and whether it's your SRO or your teacher or your social worker. Those kids want to talk they need to talk. They need to have that relationship with one person, it might be your cafeteria lady that they talk to every day and they smile at him and talk to him. I mean, just—they just have to have that one person. You could be that person."
Preparing to take on the responsibility of being that person was part of Dickson's SRO summer training.
"We did some active killer training and we actually use the hospital and it was very realistic," recalled Blackwell. "We do the training the week before they go back to school just to get the mindset ready to go back."
When asked about how school shootings at other schools affect SROs, Chandler said they do not let it get to them for long.
"Most of us want to get into the mindset of what happened. We want to know 'the why' so that we can better ourselves, you know?" he said. "So if something, God forbid it ever happens, what if that situation comes knocking at our door? We're prepared. I think it does give you a sense of, you know, worry but this is what we do. So we've got to put the uniform on and we've got to go to school and be that sense of safety for everyone."
SROs are back on the job in Dickson County beginning Monday, August 1, for the first day of school.