Lawrence police officer has been named Kansas’ Student Resource Officer of the Year
photo by: Lawrence Police Department
A Lawrence police officer has been named the Student Resource Officer of the Year by the Kansas Juvenile Officers Association.
Officer Shelby Brouhard has been with the Lawrence Police Department for seven years, and for the last four years she has served as a student resource officer, or SRO, at Free State High School. Brouhard plans to accept the award on Monday at the Kansas Juvenile Officers Association’s Annual Training Conference in Wichita. She said the award came as a bit of a surprise.
“Someone nominated me. Maybe my partner,” Brouhard said.
The Juvenile Officers Association takes into account several factors when selecting for the award, including developing relationships, demonstrating the ability to be a role model for students, and a dedication to serve above and beyond, she said.
She said she was interested in the SRO job because she thought she would be able to relate to students a little better than some officers in the past had. She said she had to convince her supervisor at the time to give her the assignment.
“A lot of the SROs before were from an older generation, and I thought it would be good to have a young person in the role,” Brouhard said.
The now 28-year-old Brouhard spent the first few years of her police career on the night shift, working 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. Moving to the day shift wasn’t the only major change she experienced when she took the SRO position.
“Your first job isn’t to enforce the law,” Brouhard said. “You have to make sure those kiddos know you’re a real human being.”
Being an all-around resource to students is what Brouhard enjoys most about the position. She learned to connect with students and staff at the school, and she learned, through a whole network of people, about helping students who may be having problems at home.
“Having counselors come to me about a (student) and then being able to see that kid hasn’t got a safe space at home — and being able to work that from start to finish” was a rewarding part of the job, Brouhard said.
She said working in the school was like being a part of a small community, and being a part of that community was just as important as enforcing the law.
“I just think that emphasizing the resource part of the title is most important — that we are not there hemming up students in the legal system,” Brouhard said.
Beyond helping students with various problems, Brouhard said educating students was also a priority, especially in the digital age.
“We are also teaching classes about social media and the legal system,” Brouhard said.
An SRO needs to be ready to guide students through issues posed by social media — whether that’s online bullying or more dangerous activities. Being younger and having grown up with social media has made it easier for her to relate to students, Brouhard said.
The length of time an officer can work as an SRO is limited to four years, and while Brouhard has enjoyed the job, she is also looking forward to getting back to patrol duties. The last few months she has been on maternity leave caring for her newborn; she plans to return to the department on Aug. 18.
Though she has finished her time as an SRO, she said the lessons she learned working at the school would carry over to her patrol duties.
“I am much more confident in juvenile law,” Brouhard said.
Deep familiarity with the law and knowing how to “slow down” on a case are two of the biggest lessons she’ll take with her. She said regular law enforcement was “like putting out fires,” whereas if she was working on a criminal case as an SRO the procedures were more involved than simply identifying an infraction and acting upon it.
“We do have the ability to take a different route,” Brouhard said about charging students for alleged criminal activity.