School resource officers: Have roles changed over the years? Submitted: 02/22/2018
Allie Herrera
Allie Herrera

School resource officers: Have roles changed over the years?
NORTHWOODS - Detective Mark Heckendorf wears one uniform, but wears many hats. 

"[I'm] sometimes a teacher, a counselor, a mentor, [and] a friend [and] sometimes a pseudo-parent," said Heckendorf who works for the Merrill Police Department. 

For the last 12 years, Heckendorf has worked as the Merrill High School and Prairie River Middle School resource officer. 

He says his role hasn't changed much over the years. How he goes about his job has changed, in large part because of school violence. 
"If you hear something you can't just write it off as 'that's just kids being kids.' You have to look into everything and treat it seriously until you can prove that it's not," said Heckendorf. 

Just last week, a former student killed seventeen people in a Florida high school. It happened far from the Northwoods, but wasn't far from Heckendorf's mind. 

Sergeant Greg Gardner also thinks about these tragedies hitting close to home.
"I thought of people here in my own school who I might think are like this," said Gardner who works for the Oneida County Sheriff's Office.
Gardner started his job as Rhinelander High School's resource officer a little more than a year ago. He says parents often contact him if their child may be having a bad day.

"It's not always a particular threat of violence that comes. It's just sometimes that they're just not right that day," said Gardner. 

Gardner says he spends most of the day focusing on building safety, looking into criminal matters, and dealing with behavioral issues. 

In his opinion, the role of a resource officer has changed over the years. 

"I don't remember students acting similar ways that I see them acting now," said Gardner. 

Both Heckendorf and Gardner said they wish they could spend more time in the halls getting to know students. They say the job sometimes takes them out of those hall, especially when they have to focus so much on keeping the school safe and handling behavioral situations that involve students.

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