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Behind the Badge: The Elementary School Resource Officer in Palmetto

Officer Marston Palmetto Elementary
Posted at 5:00 PM, May 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-25 08:11:30-04

PALMETTO Co, FL. (WWSB) - Palmetto Elementary School has a full-time dedicated elementary school resource officer and we were able to go behind the badge with him to see how he helps keep the children safe and smiling.

Walking the hallways of Palmetto Elementary, dozens of children can be seen asking for a hug or a fist bump.

In this crowd of elementary schoolers playing dodge ball, you'll see a face you wouldn't expect.

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That's Officer Douglas Marston, a member of the Palmetto Police Department and the school resource officer at Palmetto Elementary.

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Marston has spent three years as an elementary school resource officer, but has been with the force for more than a decade.

"You are the liaison from the police department to the school,  to the public and to the parents," said Marston.

His position is fully funded by the Palmetto Police Department and said his daily duties include a long list of tasks.

"Walk around the campus, just make sure everyone's in their classrooms, nothing out of the ordinary... as the days goes on as disciplinary issues arise I'll go from there," said Marston.

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He continued to say, "I just do a peek out here real quick, make sure there's nobody parked out here that doesn't belong, I do go into classrooms and explain what I do for a living and let them ask questions."

"From there with the questions related, it gives me a basis of where there at, it also gives me a chance to find out where some of these kids are coming from," he explained.

Officer Marston has quickly proven to be much more than just a police presence, he's become a shoulder to lean on and a friend for younger and older students alike.

"I feel safe because he's a police officer and if something is wrong or if somebody is bullying people i can just go to him and talk to him," said 5th grader Samyiah Brinson.

Isiah Milek said he's eager to see him every day when he gets dropped off at school, "I wave out of my car to him all the time, so does my mom, so yeah he's pretty great."

Marston says having police presence on an elementary level is just as important as higher grade levels.

"Yes I will go out of my way to save these kids lives," Marston continued to say.

"The thing with this position, you just never know, it can go from zero to 100 in two seconds flat and then you're back down to zero again. You don't know if a child has had an issue from the night before and all of a sudden he breaks down in a classroom."

When it comes to items confiscated on campus, he says at the elementary level it's usually students bringing items they've found on their way in to school.

"Knives, brass knuckles, unfortunately some of them have picked up a weapon here or there, they'll bring it in and hand it off to you."

His hope is to also educate students to help officers become a positive presence in their lives.

"By starting off at the kindergarten level, these kids can see that I'm a human, I'm no different than they are but at the same time," Marston said.

He says there's a strong mental aspect to this job.

"Trying to find out when there is an issue, trying to figure out what's going on in these children's heads. You just never know what's going to happen, why they are upset if there is an issue, so you want to figure that out very quickly."

His biggest reward, "Watching these kids grow up and seeing them progress in a positive way, so yeah, that's the fun part. They feel so successful."

We reached out to the Manatee County School District who says it does have SRO officers staffed at all middle and high schools in the county.

There is one other full time SRO officer in Manatee County who resides at Anna Maria Elementary, which is funded by the Holmes Beach Police Department.

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Otherwise, a group of SRO's from the Sheriff's Office rotate patrols through the district's 32 other elementary schools.

Sarasota County School District officials say the Sarasota Police Department has one officer each at Booker High School, Brookside Middle School and Sarasota High School.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has one deputy each at Emma E. Booker Elementary School, Booker Middle School, Laurel Middle School, McIntosh Middle School, Oak Park School, Pine View School, Sarasota Middle School, Suncoast Polytechnical High School and Venice Middle School, and two deputies at Riverview High School.

The North Port Police Department has one officer at Heron Creek Middle School and Woodland Middle School, and two officers at North Port High School.

In Charlotte County, a district official says they have full-time school resource officers in all of their schools, including their ten elementary schools.