What's the difference between an irrational six-year-old child and an irrational, intoxicated adult?
Other than size, not a lot.
That's one of the many things Carthage Police Sgt. Doug Dickey learned in six years working in Carthage's schools as one of two CPD School Resource Officer.
“We have to deal with drunks and sometimes they won't be reasoned with,” Dickey said. “Reasoning with an irrational 6-year-old is similar to reasoning with an irrational drunk. Dealing with adults is the same as dealing with kids a lot of times. The key is seeing past the behavior to alter it.”
“I rarely have to fight with any of my kids, but I always get compliance.”
Dickey will leave that position as of the first of the year to return to street duty as supervisor of the night shift, but he says he'll take valuable lessons about dealing with people, both big and little.
The department is moving Patrolman Ben Vogt into the position and Dickey has spent the past few weeks showing Vogt the ropes.
On Monday, Dickey took one of his final strolls through the halls of Fairview Elementary School as the SRO, greeting educators he has come to call friends and patting kids on the back, showing them a different side to being a police officer.
It was an especially poignant walk with Fairview Principal Ronna Patterson as the two talked about the far-to-recent massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“When I heard that and I saw it, it made me sick,” Dickey said. “Here we were, I thought we might be making headway in dealing with this and here we had a school that had lockdown proceedures. They apparently had teachers that were trained in what to do, they had a security system and still it happened.”
Dickey took his position as a second school resource officer in Carthage as a direct result of what could have been a similar incident much closer to home, the Oct. 9, 2006 Memorial Middle School shooting in Joplin.
In that case, a student at Memorial walked into the school with an assault rifle, pointed it at the ceiling and fire one shot. The rifle jammed and witnesses said he was working to unjam it and pointing it at the school principal as the principal started leading the student out of the school.
The student was arrested without incident.
Carthage had had one school resource officer since the school shooting in Columbine, but the Joplin incident galvanized local school officials.
“The day after that happened, the school board, as I understood it, got together and said we need an SRO at the junior high,” Dickey said. “I volunteered and was selected to take over that position and have been an SRO ever since.”
Page 2 of 2 - Dickey said he will be taking many lessons he learned in the schools back to the street with him.
“I've always cared about kids,” Dickey said. “But by coming to the schools, I learned how to care for them differently. It's kind of funny, but there are different ways to care about kids and what I learned here will translate to the street. I learned to get down on one knee and ask a child his or her name. They may not be able to answer any other question, but that is one the child can answer and it shows you care about him or her. Just being able to talk to them on their level puts a child at ease.”
Dickey said he learned many lessons by watching how teachers, school administrators and staff deal with and help students.
““What you're doing is seeing the, as a child,” Patterson responded. “And not just as a situation. With these kids, being able to see past the behavior is something you can do to talk to them and get through to them.”
Patterson said she'll miss Dickey's presence in the school.
“We've had a good working relationship,” she said. “He's been a consistent professional and he cares about the kids. We appreciate the dedication he's shown our kids and staff.”
Dickey said he appreciates the lessons he's learned in the schools and he believes they will make him a better police officer.
“I can walk into any disturbance scene and I've got little kids over here and, where before I would just kind of ignore them, tell them to get out of here, get out of the way, now I can actually move over to then, talk to them, maybe get some information from them,” Dickey said. “The biggest thing is get them calmed down, and I know how to do that now.”