New Officer Joins Long-Standing SRO Program with KISD
On Monday, the district welcomed a new member to the KISD family: Kerrville Police Officer Aaron Juarez as the new School Resource Officer at Hal Peterson Middle School.
Officer Juarez joins a long-standing school resource officer program at KISD thanks to a partnership between the district and the City of Kerrville Police Department dating back more than 20 years.
The School Resource Officer program was started at the high school level in KISD more than 20 years ago. Originally staffed through the Kerr County Sheriff’s Department, staffing was turned over to KPD, which began staffing the position at Hal Peterson Middle School in the mid-2000s. KPD has staffed both positions in the district continuously since.
Duties of the SRO position include assisting the district with any criminal offenses that take place on district property and investigations, serving as a resource for students, administrators and parents, and providing a safe environment for everyone on campus.
Tivy High School Resource Officer Paul Gonzales has been on the Tivy campus for six years after spending more than 20 years with KPD and speaks to the importance of the SRO program within the district.
“When you go from being a police officer out in the field in the community to being a police officer on a campus community, it’s totally different,” Gonzales explained.
“What we call the community policing side of it, is very different because your primary responsibility is to provide a secure and safe environment for the campus, but a large portion of that is to help build relationships with our youth and provide guidance and be a role model to be able to teach students anything to do with law enforcement or criminal justice and that side of it.”
Officer Juarez has been with KPD as a patrol officer for the past five years after spending five years of active duty with the U.S. Air Force Security Forces. He decided to make the jump into the SRO position at HPMS after his oldest son started elementary school this year.
“I’m constantly thinking about how he’s doing at school and is he safe?” Juarez said. “I thought I would love to take a position in the school district where I could do something about it. Not just for my son, but for all the kids. Because that’s what every parent worries about, is my child safe at school? As a school resource officer, I can actually impact that.”
Juarez spent the last three weeks with Gonzales at Tivy, learning the ropes and realizing being an SRO is more than he thought it would be.
“I expected some of the things we’ve been looking at, but it’s different from what I initially thought, in a good way,” Juarez said.
“We’ve had countless students that I’ve been able to talk to and give advice to and mentor and it feels great giving them that advice. What I think is simple might be advice they’ve never heard of or they didn’t think of and it feels good to be able to provide that to them.”
While Juarez began building those relationships at Hal Peterson on Feb. 8, Gonzales has been able to strengthen his relationship with students at Tivy over the years.
While he might not know every single student on campus, Gonzales knows he’s had a positive impact.
“What I do know, is the minute they don’t see me, they go, ‘where is Officer Gonzales?’ For some students, it’s a sense of comfort to know there is an officer here and he’s keeping us safe.
“I have many students I have not met come in and say, ‘hey Officer Gonzales, I have a question’. That means they feel comfortable coming to a law enforcement officer and asking whatever their question is,” he added.
More than anything, school resource officers are part of the campus family and come to consider their relationships with students and staff of the utmost importance.
“You kind of become like a father to all of these kids. I know quite a few of these kids and I would do everything in my power to protect them and take care of them and I would not want any of them to get hurt during my watch,” Gonzales said.
“This is my community and I would not want anyone in my community to get hurt. I want to keep them safe and feel like they are taken care of.”
Tivy High School Resource Officer Paul Gonzales, left, showed new Hal Peterson Middle School Resource Officer Aaron Juarez the ropes for a few weeks.