RACINE, Wis — At Park High School, Racine Police Officer Jerome King has been a familiar and friendly face.
"I wear plenty of hats. I can be a social worker that day, a friend, just someone to talk to," said King.
King works full-time at Park High School and is part of a renewed approach toward school resource officers. In the past, SROs were part-time and hired mostly to keep order.
Three years ago their role expanded with the Community Oriented Policing philosophy, otherwise known as the COP Model. Now officers are more involved in the schools. They get to know students, building trust and respect.
"I go to all the sporting events, the dances. I do the theater, plays, concerts. I try to make sure I'm here at all those because it's important," said King.
Directing Principal Jeffrey Miller said since the change attendance is the highest it has been in 4 years, and suspensions dropped 20 percent.
"It's not because we're not holding our kids accountable it's because we're providing the necessary support to make sure that those mistakes don't repeat themselves and our officers are very involved in that," said Miller.
The program is in the district's high school and middle schools. Since its start, RUSD has seen a 25 percent drop in calls to police and a 43 percent drop in arrests and citations.
Racine Police say the drop is not due to officers not taking enforcement action, but instead working with students and school leaders on each incident to figure out the most appropriate response. Students are getting more non-criminal sanctions as well, such as more coaching and mentoring.
Senior Miracle Holmes often plays basketball with King. She has come a long way since freshman year when she almost went to jail for pulling a fire alarm. These days she is seen as a student leader and heads a group called The Real Talk, it gives students an outlet to come together, handle conflict, and talk about anything.
Over the last few years, Holmes got to know King as someone she can talk to about basketball or life. She says it has made a difference.
"I think I would be back in Milwaukee doing something I have no business doing like stealing cars and unnecessary things. I appreciate the officers here. Honestly, they changed my life," said Holmes.
"I love to watch the kids grow up. It's a cool part. You see when they start as a freshman until they get older. That growth, that's the coolest part about this job," said King.