Sheriff's deputy to work with students

Monday, February 4, 2008

Today marks the first day of school for Deputy Cody Windbigler of the Cape Girardeau Sheriff's Department, as this week the sheriff's department introduces its first ever full-time student resource officer.

"It always came down to not having enough money," Sheriff John Jordan said of the student resource officer program.

Jordan said the sheriff's department looked into grants in the past that would allow funding for a resource officer to work in schools in the county, but under a grant, each school would have to apply separately for their own resource officer.

"Rural America really kind've takes it on the chin when it comes to the SRO program," Jordan said.

Windbigler's new position was made possible entirely by the half-cent countywide sales tax, known as Proposition 1, which allowed the sheriff's department to fund Windbigler's salary and recent SRO training, Jordan said.

"It's just a pilot program, but there seems to be a lot of interest in it," Jordan said.

One of the purposes of the program is to "bridge the gap between police officers and young people, and show them a more attractive side of law enforcement," that they may not have gotten from the media or popular culture, Windbigler said.

Windbigler intends to supplement lectures on the legal system targeted toward specific age groups, such as a PowerPoint presentation on history of law enforcement he prepared using images from movies like "Die Hard," or one aimed at elementary school classes on bullying, using examples from "The Simpsons."

A primary goal of having a student resource officer is creating a safer environment, Windbigler said.

"Children are not able to learn if they don't feel safe," he said.

He described his presence as a preventive measure, meant to deter things like the Columbine school shooting, in addition to providing the school with an automatic resource for things like grief counseling.

"Each year, one of these schools loses a student -- every year we hear of a student losing their life in an automobile or farming accident," said Jordan.

Having a resource officer on hand means the school won't have to worry about which law enforcement agency to call, or who has jurisdiction, he said.

Windbigler will start the program at Delta and Oak Ridge, but in March, he will begin work at Saxony Lutheran, Notre Dame and Nell Holcomb as well.

The bulk of his Monday-through-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule will be at Oak Ridge and Delta, though, he said.

"He'll be like a ping-pong ball -- he'll be Cape County's 'most wanted' for a while," Jordan said.

bdiscosmo@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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