Officer Ross McGlaughn started working at the Cleburne County schools in Heflin on Monday, thanks to a three-year grant awarded to the Heflin Police Department in September.
“If any person came into the school that was like a bad person, he could protect us,” Macey Cooper, 11, said of McGlaughn.
McGlaughn said his job does include protecting staff and students, but it goes beyond that to teaching students and building relationships with them. McGlaughn led a school assembly on Thursday for the fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders at Cleburne County Middle School. It was an opportunity to introduce himself and to teach them about drug abuse during this National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.
“I’m here to be their friend,” McGlaughn said. “This is more community policing than reactive policing.”
Although he’s there mainly to patrol the schools, part of his job includes dealing with legal issues including illegal drugs, fights and car violations on campus, McGlaughn added. He doesn’t enforce school rules, however — only external laws.
“I have to go by state law,” McGlaughn said.
McGlaughn comes to Heflin police from the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office, where he served as a school resource officer for just more than three years, he said. McGlaughn was school resource officer at White Plains High School for one year, at Pleasant Valley High School for two years and this year, he had been working at the Weaver schools, he said.
Along with his school resource officer training, McGlaughn has had advanced special weapons and tactics training. He said he feels ready to handle most things that might come his way at the schools and if he ever needs backup, he’s got the rest of the Heflin police force behind him.
At the assembly, students got to meet some of the other members of the Heflin Police Department as well. One, Officer Addi, was a favorite with the students. The specially trained police dog demonstrated with another officer how she would apprehend a suspect.
“It was funny how she was hanging on to the man’s arm,” said A.J. Brown, 12.
Caroline Lee, 11, had a different take on the demonstration.
“The dog was very cute,” Lee said.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.