SROs enjoy getting involved in local schools

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Deputy Tim Brand has been smiling for a lot of cameras this spring. 

Several students at Oakman Elementary/Middle School, where Brand has been the school's resource officer since spring 2019, asked to pose with him when Friends Day pictures were made a few weeks ago.

Not long before that, Brand had his picture made with the Oakman Middle baseball team, which had an undefeated season that culminated in winning the county championship in April. Brand served as an assistant under head coach Baron Steele.

Though Brand's main responsibility is to provide protection, it was the chance to make an impact in the lives of youth that convinced him to come back to the Walker County Sheriff's Office, where he had previously worked as a patrol officer and had been a sergeant before leaving in 2017.

"It's because of this man that I came back," said Brand, referring to friend and fellow SRO Sgt. Josh Richardson, who is assigned to Valley.

Like Richardson, Brand is a people person with a soft spot for kids. Richardson used to drive around with stuffed animals in his patrol car to give out to kids who were caught up in a law enforcement operation, especially in the middle of the night.

Similarly, Brand used to go out of his way to talk to kids when he was on a call.

"This may not be for everybody, but it fits our personality. We throw ideas back and forth and we try to be involved in everything we can be involved in," Brand said of himself and Richardson.

It was Richardson who was in charge of scheduling after WCSO started assigning deputies to patrol the campuses of Curry, Valley and Lupton after the Parkland school shooting that killed 17 in February 2018.

Those schools were chosen because they were the three in the county school system that were not included in the coverage area of a municipal police department.

In its infancy, the SRO program had one deputy visiting each school at least twice a day. Richardson had a vision of a much more robust program, a vision that was shared by Sheriff Nick Smith when he came into office in 2019.

"You can just go there and make your rounds if you want, I guess, but you need to have a servant's heart," Richardson said.

Within weeks of being sworn in, Smith had SROs at Curry, Valley and Lupton. Today, deputies are in every county school except those in Cordova and Parrish, and Richardson is working with the Walker County Board of Education to get those schools covered as well.

When the opportunity to become Oakman's SRO opened up, Brand took it and hit the ground running.

"You meet and talk to as many people as you can. You shake hands. You talk to kids. You meet parents. You get involved," Brand said.

Brand got so involved that he learned to play the bells and performed as a drummer in the band's Christmas concert in 2019.

Brand and Richardson are not only active within the schools to which they have been assigned but they also work (often together) in other communities on things like the Tim Tebow Foundation's Night to Shine special needs prom and the Walker County Community Action Agency's summer youth program. 

Because of the pandemic's restrictions, the two spent 10 hours a day in a classroom setting last summer teaching kids who had signed up for WCCAA's summer program and will do so again this year, though they're looking forward to a return to field trips and pool visits.

"If we can change our community, I'm not so much worried about the rest of the world. If we make our community better, then I say that's a job well done," Richardson said.