MEDFORD, Ore. – Students are starting their third week of school for the year and they have some award-winning police officers working among them. Over the summer, the Medford Police Department was nationally recognized for its “school resource officer” program.
Each year, the department dedicates 4 officers to the city’s schools. The officers work throughout the district, educating students about bullying, dating violence, and gang resistance. They also work on building relationships that have a lasting impact on students.
At just ten years old, Tanner Geyer’s life fell apart; without his dad and his mom battling a drug addiction. All of that changed in 7th grade, however, when Tanner found out he wasn’t alone.
“Have somebody to talk to and see and hang out with and go fishing with like I used to do with my dad, it’s been so much easier,”
That “somebody” was Officer Mark Patterson, the school resource officer at Hedrick Middle School.
“I remember junior high,” Officer Patterson recalled. “That’s a big turning point in our lives, right before high school, and I remember being just like these guys…kind of lost, not bad kids, but could have gone either way depending on who stepped in.”
Officer Patterson has stepped in more than once, helping junior high students re-shape their paths before entering high school.
“If it wasn’t for him in 7th grade,” said Eduardo Fuentes, “I would probably be in jails or gangs, but since he got into my life in time, that actually saved me from being 5-6 years in prison.”
Fuentes, now a freshman, helps translate during his culinary arts class.
“It went from F’s to A’s and B’s, and I was really impressed,” Fuentes said.
For the past 18 years, police officers have been in Medford schools, building relationships and ultimately, building the community.
“I’m setting a precedence for them to not be afraid of police officers when they grow up,” said Officer Patterson. “They call us and sometimes it’s just general information, sometimes they’re giving us good information, so that we can make an arrest.”