CAVE CITY — Lt. David Edwards of the Cave City Police Department said the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut inspired him to become a school resource officer.
“I started the week after Sandy Hook,” he said. “Sandy Hook wasn’t the first, and I knew it wasn’t going to be the last school shooting. There had been talk prior to that, ‘Let’s try to get a resource officer,’ but things never did work out on the school side or police side. Things fell into place, so we’re very lucky.”
Edwards went from part-time to full-time school-resource officer last month in the 1,250-student Cave City School District.
Cave City High School Principal Marc Walling said Edwards works in the district from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. two days a week and from noon to the end of the day three days a week.
Edwards also teaches an introduction to criminal justice class at the high school, and he has worked the night shift at the Cave City Police Department. Kevin Rose was hired in January as a full-time officer, bringing the total number of officers to five.
Police Chief Brian Barnett said Rose is “just getting into law enforcement.” An EMT and a former firefighter, Rose will attend the Police Training Academy in Camden, the chief said.
Barnett said he approves of the move for Edwards, who will still be employed by the Police Department. The school will reimburse the city for Edwards’ salary and insurance, the chief said.
“The city and the school and even the Sharp County Sheriff’s Office up here have been trying for several years to get this accomplished. The day and time we live in, it’s needed,” Barnett said.
Walling said the district also saw a need for a full-time school-resource officer.
“We don’t necessarily have a resource officer at our [sports] games. … That was the concern for the school,” Walling said. “The fact of the matter is, when crazy stuff happens … a parent comes to pick up a cheerleader and parents get into it, or fight at a game, we didn’t have a resource officer available. Not only will he be here 8-3, we’re going to get him after hours. You like to have somebody travel with your kids; you like somebody at your stadium, at your home gym.”
Walling said Edwards has the perfect personality for his role.
“David’s really done a great job. It’s like a principal or a good classroom teacher. Personality is nine-tenths of it; you’ve got to be able to communicate with the kids. David’s done that,” Walling said. He said the high school has 400 students.
Edwards, who grew up in North Little Rock, said he doesn’t have family members in law enforcement.
“I just kind of always had an interest in it,” he said.
Edwards, 49, graduated from Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge with a business-administration degree.
“Then I ended up going to work as an EMT right after that,” he said, and worked for an ambulance service in Cave City, which is no longer in business.
Edwards said he continued his training and became a paramedic for ambulance services in Fulton and Baxter counties.
“Then my son had just been born, and it was time for me to try to be home a little bit more,” he said. His work at the ambulance services required a grueling schedule. He was also working as a Cave City reserve police officer, which he did for nine years. He is starting his 11th year as a full-time officer.
His wife, Renee, teaches first grade in the Cave City School District. Their 11-year-old son, Wyatt, is a sixth-grader at Cave City Middle School.
Edwards said the issues in the Cave City School District are the same as in most districts.
“Like any other school, we’re going to have a little bit of a drug problem,” he said. “We’ll probably have more fights than anything else. I’m hoping me being here full time will curtail some of that.”
The officer said one of his goals is to bring about respect for his profession.
“One of the things I’m really pushing for is trying to convey to the kids, here the last few years, law enforcement has had a black eye with the younger generation all across the country. I’m hoping this will show the young generation we’re just like everybody else; we’ve got a job to do,” Edwards said.
“I know most of these kids and their parents. I’ve lived in this area for 25 years,” he said.
“My goal is just to make sure that our kids have a safe environment to be able to learn and become productive citizens,” Edwards said. “If they need anything, they can come to me, and we can take care of whatever needs to be done — at school, or even at home.”
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.