Fred Bell took over as the school resource officer (SRO) on Jan. 4. Bell has been with the Webster Groves police department for 11 years.
“I started there out of the academy,” Bell said.
Before becoming an SRO, Bell worked as a community resource officer.
“Now that I’m working as an officer with the school, I’m interacting with a smaller populous than the City of Webster Groves, more of a focused area than the entire city, so this gives me an opportunity to actually establish relationships and get to know the younger generation of Webster Groves a little bit more,” Bell said.
Bell enjoyed his time as a community resource officer but didn’t have time to connect with people on a personal level.
“I was always interested in interacting with high school students on developing more personal relationships and an opportunity came up so I seized the opportunity [to apply],” Bell said.
Webster Groves as a community appealed to Bell.
“When I was applying to be a police officer, I did a lot of research on the cities I wanted to work for, got to know the department as well as the community. The things I learned about Webster Groves sounded like the perfect fit for me,” Bell said.
Bell started at the beginning of spring semester.
“I understand coming in halfway through is a little complicated. Some students, seniors, it’s going to be hard to establish a relationship with someone who’s only here a few more months,” Bell said.
Bell wants to get to know the school.
“It’s a big confusing school, but I definitely want to get to know the students, your [students] likes, dislikes. I’d love advice you guys can give me. What you’re looking for in an SRO to improve. Just build a relationship, a foundation of trust, and I’d say exchanging ideas and try to have fun,” Bell said.
Bell makes attempts to meet and interact with students throughout the day. Bell greets students in the mornings outside of senior entrance with principal Matt Irvin.
“We are grateful to have Officer Bell join our team at Webster Groves High School,” Irvin said.
Bell works to meet students on his own as well.
“In the passing periods I like to get out and walk around, try to meet as many students as I can in a short period of time, and kind of get familiar with the building. You’ll see me down at lunch, in the cafeteria doing lunch detail. Then towards the end of the day, I’ll wish you guys a good day,” Bell said.
SRO’s work to make schools safe.
“[I’m] gonna be working with the staff and the assistant principals and Dr. Irvin to come up with a game plan. Everything you are doing right now is very impressive; nothing’s perfect. We’re just gonna work together to improve some of the security issues we notice and those that are brought to our attention so we can ensure the school, students and staff are safe,” Bell said.
Bell has a goal to learn each student’s name.
“I’ve gotten five so far, and I’d like to keep doubling that up, but there are a lot more students at this school than I expected. I’m hoping to start to learn everybody’s name. I know it’s gonna be hard, but everybody’s name and at least one thing about you guys,” Bell said.
Bell also wants to work on destigmatizing the police.
“I got lucky because my first interaction with a police officer wasn’t negative, but that’s not the case for a lot of people. Anything I can do to help change that by interacting with them at a young age to all the way up through high school,” Bell said.
Featured Graphic by Stephen Spear
This will be Lydia Urice’s third year on ECHO staff. She made several contributions while taking journalism class her freshman year. She was Podcast Editor for her first year on staff, and Junior Editor her second year.