• Zella Milfred

Officer Johnson Leaving LHS

Updated: Feb 13, 2020

Roderick Johnson has been La Follette’s student resource officer (SRO) for three years now. On Friday, February 7th he will be departing as he begins his new job as a Madison detective. This will be a huge transition for the LHS community, because Johnson has been here for as long as most of our current students.

“The best part of the job is getting to work with such wonderful kids on a daily basis, not knowing what to expect when you come in for work, and being able to watch young children grow into young adults. Obviously the worst part of the job is when I have to use my police credentials if something goes awry,” Johnson explained.

Even though he is leaving La Follette, he will never lose sight of his Lancer pride. Seeing this pride grow in students as they begin to take responsibility at the school is very impactful for him.

“He is always the type of person to not only be there as a security guard or police officer, but also as a mentor and leader,” Kiesha Duncan (11) said. Duncan was one of the two students who helped with the process of hiring a new SRO, who will begin training at the school with Johnson later this month. His name is Justin Cumley and has experience being a Madison police officer and an SRO in the West Bend School District.

As Cumley begins at La Follette, Johnson will be starting his career as a detective. He will be working downtown with sensitive crimes and general assignments. After being assigned a case, he will investigate the situation given the details and information provided. “It’s like doing a puzzle and trying to get all of the puzzle pieces to fit. My job will be to put the puzzle together,” he said.

It will be different for him to not work with kids and get a daily interaction with students. In other ways though, he feels that his time being an SRO, and working on the police department’s gang unit before that, will have prepared him for this kind of work. He already does many follow-ups on things occuring in the community, and knows how to communicate information with victims of difficult situations. “It prepared me and I am always looking for a challenge and something different, I don’t ever want to stay stagnant, so I’m going to take this role on and hopefully be as successful as I have been in my other positions,” Johnson said.

There have been some rocky times in the past three years at La Follette, including a couple of gun incidents near the school. As school safety continues to change, Johnson has seen a shift in more students reporting things when they see them happen. “Students are having more ownership in the school and they want a safe environment to learn in. I think their involvement and their willingness to share information that they get is vital to that school safety,” Johnson said.

SROs have been in Madison high schools since the mid 1990’s in hopes of improving school safety and creating better relationships between police officers and members of the community. In more recent years, some have critiqued the police presence because of the disproportionate number of students of color being cited and arrested. The Madison School Board considered taking SROs out of the high schools, but ultimately voted on keeping them in.

Officer Johnson acknowledges that being an officer on the streets is very different than being on officer in a school, and has some advice for the up and coming SRO as to how to make a positive impact at our school. “Be you. Whoever you are when you’re at home and not being a police officer, be that person first. There will be circumstances when you must be a police officer but most of the time you have to wear many hats in this building. Understand that you are here for the kids, that you are here to protect them first and foremost, and that you are here to watch them go from being freshmen, to seniors, to whatever they do after high school. You have to help them navigate through that path and when there are rough patches you have to let them know,” Johnson said.

Johnson thanks La Follette students for everything he has learned from them, and promises to visit. He is confident that Cumley will do well at La Follette, and is happy with his selection.

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