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Always On Duty

While over 300 hundred students zig-zag through the hallways of Schilling Farms Middle School during the seventh grade class change, Collierville Police Officer Jay Reese stands by watching the crowds, saying hello and exchanging smiles. After a few minutes, the students disappear into their classrooms and the hallways are completely quiet as Reese walks alone through the empty halls.
“Visibility is an important part of our job,” said Reese. “Class changes, lunches, drop-off and pick-up…there are over 1,000 students moving through this school every day.”

Reese is in his seventh year as the School Resource Officer at Schilling Farms and he has served 13 total years as an officer with the Collierville Police Department.

With his experience, he knows that being visible is a safety measure and also a key step to build trusting relationships with students, parents and faculty.

Despite the large number of students at Schilling Farms Middle, they will see Reese multiple times throughout the day. During lunch time, he is present in the cafeteria, watching students coming and going while also walking around the tables and talking with students as they eat and laugh among their friends.

“I want these kids to have a positive association with the police, and feel comfortable about approaching me with anything. Middle school is tough, and I want them to see that I am here to help,” said Reese.

School resource officers wear multiple hats, working as members of law enforcement, teachers and counselors. In addition to providing student protection, they lead class presentations, advisory sessions between students, parents, and staff, and they police school and community extracurricular events.

“Students that have gone on to high school will see me at Town events or football games and give me updates on how they are doing or their future plans. I had a mother recently tell me that her son was adjusting to high school really well after a difficult time in middle school,” said Reese.

A positive association with law enforcement, and trusting relationships through the SRO unit, spreads to parents and follows students into adulthood, ultimately benefiting the entire community.

“Officer Reese is an integral part of our staff,” said Tim Strickland, assistant principal at Schilling Farms Middle School. “He is a true servant leader by going above the call of duty to relate and connect to our students. I’ve seen him effectively diffuse situations, play chess with kids and counsel students who wanted to talk to an adult who wasn’t a teacher. He is always on duty.”

The role is very different than most police work, balancing a nurturing rapport with students while providing a high level of protection for the entire school. The Collierville Police Department has a thorough process for resource officer assignments to ensure they have the right officer to fulfill the positions.

Once a Collierville Police Officer is selected to become a resource officer, he or she must fulfill state mandated training of 40 hours at an SRO Basic School, 24 hours of SRO in-service annually, in addition to regular, annual training with the Collierville Police Department.

The officer’s training covers a variety of topics specifically related to school situations such as emergency management scenarios – SROs must know how to direct students, parents and faculty in unexpected, stressful situations.

In addition, the officers learn techniques tailored for children and adolescents such as firearms training and crisis de-escalation.

Reese also serves as a West Tennessee Director for the Tennessee School Resource Officer Association, a professional organization that provides guidance and support to local officers who are assigned to public education facilities.

In his third year in the elected position, Reese works with other members of the TNSRO Board to create educational curriculum for state-wide SRO training as well as material for school administrators.

Collierville Police Department student resource officers have held leadership positions with TNSRO for many years. The Collierville unit has a significant history as pioneers in the state.

In 1998, the unit was established with one officer assigned to Collierville Middle School. The following year, a second officer was added to rotate between three elementary school campuses. This was the first time a full-time officer was assigned to an elementary school in the state.

The program continued to grow until 2013, when every school in Collierville was assigned a full-time officer.

Reese’s reputation proves that he is an ideal fit for the job.

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