Officer Zach Landry of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office joined Toledo and Waldport students as they began the new school year last week, serving as the school district’s newest school resource officer.
Landry will fulfill a three-year contract with the school district to provide resource officer services through the sheriff’s office, during which time he hopes to foster a stronger relationship between the school district, local law enforcement and the communities they serve.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do since I got into law enforcement,” Landry said. “It’s something that helps kids of all ages learn how to interact with law enforcement from the very start of their school careers.”
Landry is a veteran who served in the U.S. Army for 14 years prior to becoming a deputy. He has worked for the sheriff’s office for the last two years and previously served as resource officer for Newport schools at the end of last school year, when the Newport Police Department stopped offering the service due to budget reasons.
“I covered Newport schools for only about two months last year, just filling in, and I’d say I saw a huge impact on the patterns of children while I was there,” Landry said. “As those few days and weeks went by, the kids went from being a little standoffish and not knowing why I was there to being excited to see me and greeting me as another trusted adult they’d be able to go to.”
According to Lincoln County School District Assistant Superintendent Susan Van Liew, the purpose of a school resource officer is to “promote safety and student success” through education, relationship building and supporting administrators in law enforcement-related matters.
Some examples of what they do include giving classroom presentations on topics such as drug awareness and anti-bullying; getting to know students on a personal level by greeting them on campus daily; and trying to deescalate or intervene in situations at the school deemed extreme enough to require law enforcement action.
Landry will also help the schools coordinate with the sheriff’s office regarding emergency response, which includes everything from an active shooter on the premises to how the school would handle a countywide emergency, such as a wildfire or tsunami. Those efforts would include learning the floor plan and layout of different schools to brief fellow officers and emergency workers during an emergency.
“School resource officers serve primarily as a liaison between the school district and law enforcement, so their primary goal is to ensure the safety and security of school faculty and school property,” LCSO Sgt. Jack Dunteman told the News-Times. “Another thing they do is respond to all incidents related to a school, anything from bullying on the bus ride to and from school and other general bullying complaints, as well as dealing with any child welfare reports. Most of those reports originate at a school as all public employees are mandatory reporters.”
Landry believes his job goes far beyond the disciplinary portion, however, as he expects to spend far more time on the education and relationship building elements of the job.
“I’m there to help,” Landry said. “I’m not just there to go around stopping fights and breaking up families. It’s meant to be a helpful role for everyone.
“I plan to see a real progression in our relationship with the students and my interaction with them, and I hope that transfers to their friends and parents,” Landry continued. “My goal is to help make these communities better, and ultimately I want to paint local law enforcement in a better light.”
Landry joins two other school resource officers working throughout the district — Officer Matthew McCandless of the Toledo Police Department, who covers Newport schools, and Officer Logan Smith of the Lincoln City Police Department, who covers Lincoln City schools.