School Police Officers under pressure with growing student population

RICHLAND, Wash. -- The school shooting in Connecticut put a renewed focus on school resource officers. Often there's just one-officer for what seems like a city of kids. And our local schools are already busting at the seams.

Officer Muai says, "Passing time's the craziest time because the kids are all out of class, walking the hallways."

One student tells KEPR, "He's always in the hallway, doing his job, making sure kids are in line."

But with a rapidly-growing student population, it's getting harder for resource officers like Jeff Muai to keep up.

"I do my best to talk to as many kids as possible," Muai says.

Officer Muai is also a coach for the Bomber football team.
He's the first SRO at Richland High to get involved with student athletics. Officer Muai says the coaching has helped him do his job better and allowed the students see that his passion for safety goes beyond the uniform.

"I want them to be comfortable as they see me. I want them to make sure they're not scared or intimidated at all," Officer Muai says.

Still, more students means the potential for more incidents an SRO would be called for. Things like fights, theft and truancy.

Just before winter break, there was a disturbing word going around.
Mason Baird heard about it.

"Someone was gonna start shooting at richland. I think it was all just jokes and fun.. And some people got actually scared," He explains.

The Richland High senior still went to school despite what he'd heard.

Officer Muai replies, "That's all they were was rumors. But we still have to address them."

Nothing happened, but Richland still brought in an additional officer to be safe. And also to make sure students like Mason, feel safe.

Officer Muai tells KEPR that one officer per high school here in Richland is sufficient for now. But he said there's lots of talk of having stationed officers in middle schools and elementary schools.

While SRO's are standard at high schools in the big 3 districts Pasco also rotates an officer through its middle schools on a regular basis. Richland also has officers stop by elementary schools 2-3 times a week.