Officer Pat Sweeney of the City of Arnold Police Department describes his job as School Resource Officer in the Fox C-6 School District as “building relationships with students and, also, enforcing the law.”
With nearly 17 years’ experience as an Arnold Police Officer, including 13 years as School Resource Officer serving Fox High School, Fox Middle School, and three elementary schools, Sweeney is on the job throughout the school year. During the summer he is a patrolman with the Department.
Sweeney drives a patrol car to work at the high school, where he has an office whose door is almost always open. Every day he wears his police uniform, complete with handcuffs and pistol.
“I am really proud to be an Arnold Police Officer, and I love working with the school kids,” says Sweeney, who served as a Police Officer in Ladue, Missouri, before joining the Arnold Police Department. “In Arnold today, I often find myself working with the children of people I knew years ago – I graduated from Fox High School in 1983.”
Sweeney says his role in the schools is to be an authority figure, friend, counselor, mentor, and, of course, a cop. “I have lots of interaction with kids, teachers, administrators, and principals every day,” says the former member of the Fox High Warriors football team, now age 52. “You might say that part of my job as School Resource Officer is to intervene appropriately to keep in-school problems from happening or escalating. The kids are here to get an education, and that’s what we try to help them accomplish – without incidents.”
“The kids know there is a line between right and wrong, and that if they cross that line I am going to do my job as a Police Officer. And that it may involve arresting them, if necessary.” Sweeney’s response to potentially troublesome incidents with a student or among students often is to call the student(s) into his office to discuss the issue and the potential consequences. Frequently, that initial conversation will diffuse a problem.
Sometimes, he invites a student’s parents into his office with their child to discuss a problem or incident. Sweeney may invite a teacher or school administrator to also participate in the session. “That usually happens,” says Sweeney, “when we learn about bullying incidents or find threats written on a bathroom wall or in social media. We investigate all such incidents, and we work closely with the detective squad at the Arnold Police Department, if needed.”
Sweeney says there has never been a gun incident at the schools during his tenure, “But I have arrested students for major violations – from fighting to possession of drugs. Some of those students have been prosecuted and gone to jail.” He adds, “Fortunately, those incidents are few and far between.”
After the shooting incident occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, “we became more aggressive in our approach to intruder drills, lockdown options, and precautionary training. There seems to be more negative temptations, potential dangers, and threats in the world than when I grew up.” Sweeney and Arnold school administrators routinely conduct “intruder drills” in the event of an armed intruder or terrorist threat. “We do a lot of training with the teachers, too, to help make their classrooms safe and secure to protect the kids.” This ranges from secure door locking to lectures on disaster response, and more. Sweeney says classrooms are equipped with various lockdown tools, such as extra door locks and super-strong rope. “We choose to be prepared for any potential situation,” he says.
“In my opinion, not all kids have the coping skills they may need to maximize their success in school because of the many intrusive or distracting influences in society today. For example, I don’t like social media when it is used for bullying or to spread unconfirmed rumors or gossip about other people. It’s why I am always available to talk with students, hear their concerns, and help them if I can.” Sweeney attributes much of the School Resource Officer program’s success to working closely with Fox High School Principal Ryan Sherp and assistant principals, as well as communications with Fox C-6 Superintendent Dr. James Wipke.
Sweeney adds, “Without the support of Arnold Police Chief Robert Shockey and School Superintendent Wipke this program would not be as successful as it is.”
“I love my job because of the interaction with kids and opportunities to discuss what’s on their minds, and ways we can help them in any situation that arises. One of my satisfactions is to see kids in the community years after they graduated from Fox High School and hear them say, ‘You turned my life around for the better.’ ”