LHISD introduces new officers
By Mike Eddleman
Liberty Hill ISD Police Chief Sharif Mezayek stood at the back of the room during Monday’s school board meeting with a smile that gave away a sense of pride and relief all in one.
His two new officers – Jason Wolf and Brian Waters – introduced themselves to the School Board, expressing their excitement over the opportunity to be a part of a new department and work in Liberty Hill.
Both officers summed up their goal and responsibility as they walk on to Liberty Hill campuses as focused on helping kids succeed and avoid the pitfalls that can lead to deeper trouble later on.
“The more of a support system we as SROs can be for kids the less of enforcers we will ever have to be,” Waters said. “If I can impact a kid and see them change from being so mad they have shut down to where they are actually telling me things, having a conversation with me, and I’ve turned their day around, that to me is a successful day.
“The more of a positive impact we can have now, the less they are going to be dealign with officers on the streets.”
Wolf and Waters are both military veterans – a Marine and army veteran respectively – with lengthy law enforcement careers, and both agreed that the opportunity to work with students is something special.
“I’ve always loved working with youth and kids,” Wolf said. “Being an SRO (school resource officer) is something I’ve always wanted to do through my career. When this program started I saw the job opportunity and I saw this as my chance so I jumped on it.”
Waters has more than two years experience as an SRO in Leander ISD, and that experience led him to seek this position in Liberty Hill.
“It was the most rewarding time in my career,” he said. “I love working with kids. I have my own kids, I’ve been a youth group sponsor before and I just enjoy working with kids and being a positive role model and mentor.”
Each has children of their own, and Wolf said that helps in dealing with students on their level every day.
“I have three kids of my own and just being involved with them at the schools and seeing them and their friends who know I’m an officer, having the interaction and knowing that at such a young age their minds are so moldable is a great opportunity to be able to have that positive influence,” Wolf said. “Seeing the influence you can have on kids is so rewarding.”
He added that his own kids help him stay in tune with what students are going through and dealing with.
“Seeing what my kids have gone through and having them as a resource for me to know about current trends and what’s going on at school at their level is great feedback to be able to apply to my job here,” Wolf said.
Being available and making sure students know they can come see him is key in that mentoring and teaching role Waters believes is at the heart of working for a school district department.
“You have to be visible and be seen,” Waters said of how to stay involved directly with students. “I’m in the hall during all the passing periods and in every lunch. I’ll know teachers who are ok with me walking in to their class.”
To that end, Waters places a mailbox outside his office to make it easier for students who need to talk to reach out to him.
“It lets any kids who need to talk to me jot down a note and drop it in the mailbox and then I can call them in,” Waters said. “If they’re having a bad day and need to blow up they can come to my office and blow up in my office. Be respectful about it, but be angry and lets talk and keep them out of the office dealing with principals or dealing with us on the enforcement side.”
In the end, for both officers, building those important relationships that make them a resource for students is about making sure the students know they are interested and they care.
“You have to interact with the students at whatever level or place they are is key,” Wolf said. “Going to their games, or if it is something I don’t know about like robotics its as simple as saying ‘hey, teach me something.’ Yeah I’m an adult, but they can teach me. When they see that you’re willing to get on their level and learn from them and show interest in what they’re interested in it kind of opens those opportunities.”
Waters grew up in Cedar Park and is a Leander High School graduate. He has 15 years in law enforcement. Wolf grew up in Thrall and has been in law enforcement in Central Texas since 1999. He has lived in Cedar Park for the last nine years.
Mezayek said the two new officers have hit the ground running and he will now go back to the hiring process in search of the third new officer to fill out the department.