LEXINGTON — Kareem McDougall said he feels glad to be in his position as the new School Resource Officer at Lexington Public Schools. He applied for the position after Chad Reutlinger, previous SRO, was promoted to Sergeant and left the position.
McDougall is not new to law enforcement, he began in 2003 as a police officer with the University of Nebraska at Kearney and worked for sheriff’s offices in Chase, Kearney and most recently, Dawson County. He joined the Lexington Police Department this year in July.
McDougall said he wanted to make a change and liked working the municipalities police departments do. Sheriff’s offices deal with civil process while the police department works within the city limits. He said he is grateful to have a job with the city.
McDougall is originally from New York and moved here after he met his wife Melissa in New York after she came to the state to work as a nanny, their relationship brought him to Nebraska. The couple has two children, Aydin and Bryson. He attended Interboro College in New York before moving to Nebraska.
After Chad Reutlinger was promoted to sergeant, the position of SRO became open, McDougall applied for the position.
"It’s a very important program, it helps bridge that gap between the police department and the community," he said, "It is the embodiment of community policing, it’s very important work."
Captain Paul Schwarz with the LPD said that the position of SRO is treated as an assignment within the department, much like an investigator. He said McDougall was picked because of his years of experience as a law enforcement officer.
Since being chosen as the new SRO, McDougall has attended several training sessions to be better prepared for the job. One of the trainings considered school based policing and school law. He said the school was now his "beat." One of the main goals of the job is to ensure that students and faculty are safe.
McDougall said he has three roles as SRO, the first is a law enforcement officer, the second is being a guest speaker in the classrooms, for example he informs students what he can do in regards to search and seizure, as well as crime prevention methods. The third role is that of a mentor, this involves building relationships.
McDougall said one of the goals he has for himself is to make relationships with the students and start to build their trust in him as an authority figure and someone they can speak with. Some of these are starting to form already; he said his door is always open to students who want to visit. He said quite a few choose to do so over the lunch hour and many just want to say hi to the new guy.
He said the benefits to this partnership with the schools and the police department is twofold, this leads to safer schools and safer children.
When asked how he plans to build a repertoire between himself and the students, McDougall said, "I plan on being myself, that’s part of my personality, I like to share and speak with other people. That will help show the human side of police work."
"I hope to be the officer that can be trusted by the student," McDougall said, "trust is key to community policing, it’s very important to have that trust present, otherwise, there is no community policing."
McDougall said the position of SRO is, "one of the best kept secrets in law enforcement." This is due to an SRO contact with student’s every day. He said that overall the interactions are much more positive than a police officer might have in only traffic stops.
The position of SRO is important because it helps students form a positive view of the police, said McDougall. This grows more important with stories of police misconduct and discrimination growing in the news cycle. The SRO position is a way to show students the reality of police work and to see that police officers are people too.
McDougall is looking forward to being a guest speaker in classes in the near future. He will be discussing teen dating and dating violence. "A lot of positive things will be happening here in the future he said."
"I feel very fortunate to have this position," McDougall said, "I am very glad to be here."