MATTOON -- Shane West has started transitioning into his role as the second school resource officer on duty on Mattoon school district campuses.
West, who has served nearly 20 years as a patrolman with the Mattoon Police Department, recently began working part time as a school resource officer and he is scheduled to go full time on March 19.
The new school resource officer has been assigned to focus on Mattoon Middle School, where West will have an office, and on nearby Williams Elementary School. Both sites are located along South Ninth Street, on the east side of town. Kasey Alexander, who has served for six years as a school resource officer, will focus on Mattoon High School and Riddle Elementary School on the west side.
School resource officers, part of a program that began in 1998, are provided by the police department and funded by the school district. They serve in this position during the school year and return to their regular duties during breaks.
West, a Mattoon native, said he looks forward to interacting with students and being a positive role model for them as he maintains a presence on the two school campuses.
"(School resource officers) are basically a bridge for law enforcement to try to steer kids away from the juvenile justice system, while at the same time providing a service to the school district for safety and security," said Police Chief Jason Taylor.
The police department and the school district established an additional school resource officer position last fall following the Sept. 20 shooting in the high school cafeteria. One student was shot and wounded. Officials have reported that the alleged shooter, also a student, was subdued by a teacher and then disarmed and arrested by Officer Alexander.
West said he was on patrol with the shift that responded to the shooting, an experience that "opened my eyes" to school security needs. West said this interest led him to apply to serve as a school resource officer when the additional position was creation. West said Alexander has been a big help in helping him prepare for serving in this new role.
Chief Taylor said West has been willing take on a lot of extra duties over the years, including serving as a firearms instructor and as a firing range and armory manger. He said West is ready to work full time as a school resource officer, but his replacement officer in the patrol division will be at the police academy until mid-April.
"(West) is not in the schools full time now because we can't staff our shifts without him," Taylor said, adding that the police department has a tight budget and is short staffed.
Middle School Principal Jeremie Smith said he has been pleased to see West already visiting students and staff. Smith said West's most important role in this post will be to build positive relationships with students at Williams and the middle school. Smith said this will help students see West as a trusted adult they can turn to if they need help in the schools or in the community.
Smith said West also will assist the staff with the school's conflict resolution program for students and with crisis planning, including for fires or natural disasters. Smith said having an additional school resource officer will ease the work load on Officer Alexander and provide more coverage for the two Ninth Street schools. He thanked the city and school district for making this possible.
"I think it's a huge statement to our community and our kids that we care about them," Smith said.