Among the new faces in the halls of Oakdale schools this school year is an Oakdale High alum returning to the hallways and classrooms where he was once a student.
In a cooperative effort with the Oakdale Joint Unified School District and the Oakdale Police Department, Officer Dan Taylor was assigned as the district’s new School Resource Officer this year after an eight-year absence of no cop assigned to OJUSD’s seven school sites.
The assignment is actually a return to a post Taylor, a 16-year vet of the department, held from 2001 to 2003.
“It’s different this time around,” said Taylor, a 1994 OHS grad. “Because of the gap from an SRO being assigned to schools, a lot of the kids when they see me (on campus) aren’t used to it and have the reaction of ‘who got arrested?’”
SROs not only enforce laws on campus, but they also act as a problem-solver and liaison, further local crime prevention efforts, and teach students how to avoid becoming crime victims as well as explain the consequences of criminal behavior.
SROs build relationships at a key time in many young people’s lives.
This time around, Taylor’s assignment includes all OJUSD schools – four elementary schools, the junior high, alternative, and the high school.
“I keep where I will be each day fresh, taking into account staff considerations and special events,” Taylor said. “High school kids, if they see a pattern, could use that to their advantage which is why I keep it random.”
Taylor points out that the biggest threat to students and staff at the schools doesn’t come from within, but from outsiders coming onto campus to create trouble.
“I especially want to be visible and challenge when I see an outsider,” Taylor said about his presence on the grounds. “The person who has the tools to intervene and take care of problems shouldn’t be a guy just sitting in an office.”
In preparation for the new post, Taylor was sent to the National Association of School Resource Officers Conference this summer.
“There were a lot of new tools and information I gained that I didn’t have from my past experience here,” Taylor said. “Much of it I can relay to staff and parents.”
Interim Oakdale Police Chief Mike Harden felt Taylor was the ideal officer on the department to be chosen for the position.
“Officer Taylor is a great role model and ambassador for the OPD and the students that make up the school district,” Harden said.
Taylor said he was impressed with his acceptance on the campuses, especially with the elementary-aged students.
“I get swarmed when I’m there,” Taylor said. “It can be the highlight of my day.”
Taylor felt it was important for children at that age to be exposed to a law enforcement officer to see that they’re human, friendly, and approachable.
Oakdale High School Vice Principal Joni McGinnis welcomed back the SRO program to the 1,573-student body campus.
She said having an SRO was a great partnership and fulfilled their role to not only educate, but make the students feel safe.
“It’s a huge asset,” McGinnis said. “The program is a great way to build positive relationships with students.”
McGinnis felt Taylor was the ideal officer to take on the task.
“He talks to the kids and staff and makes us real comfortable,” McGinnis said. “He’s out there willing to take on problems helping us out.”