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Charly Haley, Published January 20 2013

It's My Job: School resource officer’s duties extend beyond law enforcement

FARGO – Chad Moen was living in Denver when the Columbine school shooting happened in 1999.

The event inspired Moen to become a police officer to help protect others and work against violence.

Moen has been a Fargo police officer since 2001, and two years ago he became the school resource officer for Fargo North High School.

Can you describe your job?

Well, for a police officer in a school, it’s not just about law enforcement – there’s not enough crime in the school for that to be my sole purpose – so a school resource officer basically has kind of a three prong approach: a law-enforcement officer, and then you’re a law-related counselor and you teach some law-related classes.

So coming up I have a ninth-grade class, and I’ll assist that teacher teaching about alcohol and drug awareness, DUIs, things like that.

There’s counseling, answering questions – it could be a traffic law question, or something like, ‘I got a ticket for that, or I got arrested for this, what does that mean?’ I can work them through a court process or answer law-related questions.

And then of course you enforce laws and investigate crimes, all the regular police officer duties as well.

Which schools do you work at?

I am primarily out of Fargo North. All the SROs divide up the elementary schools to teach programs on the dangers of alcohol and drugs, and so for me, I do that at Longfellow and McKinley. … With those schools, if there’s maybe a third-grader who has a stealing problem, like from other students or at home, they might ask me to come in and explain what’s wrong.

What is the benefit of having you talk to a student about those issues instead of a parent or teacher?

It’s a different perspective, maybe a bit more serious because they see the person in uniform. It may just get their attention a bit more. I don’t go in there pounding my fist on the table and scaring them straight or anything like that, but it’s just a different perspective. I may be able to explain better what happens to kids who keep making these mistakes.

How many school officers are there in Fargo?

In the city of Fargo, there are seven. One at each of the three high schools, one at each of the three middle schools, and we have one primarily out of Shanley that handles all of the Catholic schools.

What are some of the challenges you face?

The counseling side – you’re kind of like an informal counselor. It usually starts out with law-related questions, but they’ll ask you personal questions if they feel more comfortable talking to you rather than a parent. And there’s a balance there, because you’re a law enforcement officer – so you investigate crimes, you write tickets and you do all those things – but then you’re also kind of a counselor, so you’re somebody that students should be able to come to.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

The positivity. When you work patrol as a police officer, it’s not uncommon to see people at their worst. They’re usually in drugs, alcohol, getting in fights. When what you deal with every single day is people at their worst, you’re kind of pessimistic. … In this school setting, it’s just refreshing. The students and all the positivity, all the excitement about the future, and just – everybody’s good. They might make some mistakes or do some things they shouldn’t, but they’re still good people.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Charly Haley at (701) 235-7311