Roderick McConico is just as much a counselor as he is a school resource officer.
McConico serves as the SRO for Sumiton Elementary, Sumiton Middle and Sumiton Christian schools. For McConico, his number one priority is keeping the school campuses safe, but he's also on a mission to encourage the students who see him on a daily basis.
"I go to ballgames. I try to make it to some activities, when possible. I eat lunch with them. It's all about putting a smile on their face — letting them know that they're safe. I want them to have a good, safe learning environment," McConico said.
His law enforcement career began in 1999 in Jefferson County, and after nearly three years, he wanted to gain more experience in other departments. He went on to work in Adamsville and later at the University of Alabama. In 2011 he returned to Walker County and worked part-time for the City of Dora and Town of Parrish.
Then-Parrish police chief Nick Smith hired McConico to work for the Parrish Police Department, where he later became chief. While McConico was chief in Parrish he also coached 7- and 8-year-old boys baseball.
He ultimately wished to work more with children, so when the opportunity arose for him to be a school resource officer in Sumiton for the City of Sumiton, he was thrilled.
McConico has children of his own who are now grown, and he admits the long hours in law enforcement made him miss out on some of their childhood. He said being an SRO has provided a new opportunity for him to give back and be there for children who may not have father figures at home.
"I have kids that come up to me and just want a hug. You know something's going on, but they don't always tell us. If there's anything going on, I want them to feel free to be able to talk to me," he said. "You try to be a blessing and try to work something out."
McConico said he learns the personalities of the children in Sumiton schools so he will know if something is wrong.
"The stuff I key in on is when you go from a student who's outgoing to sheltered. That's when you start looking closely because there's something going on with that student. We've got to be able to catch those signs," he said. "It can be something simple or a death in the family but, on the other hand, it can be something totally different. I would rather get to the bottom of it, then for something to happen here and put everybody in harm's way."
On the first day of school at Sumiton Christian, McConico wasn't only strapped with items for safety. He came to school carrying a lunch bag and backpack — just like the students there — and he posed for a first day of school picture. The photo generated nearly 200 likes on Facebook and was well-received by parents.
It's all a way to connect with the kids and let them know they are special.
"That's all part of being an SRO. You get to go to these different functions. As a kid, if your parents aren't there, it's always nice to have somebody else to cheer you on," McConico said. "I like that more than I like my badge. It's got a different meaning. ... When you're passionate about what you do, you go the extra mile."