For Waxahachie Police officers James Lewis and Miqueas Figueroa, building relationships with students is vital to creating a healthy community.
And, as school resource officers, the two will work to protect campuses, investigate crime, and provide encouragement for students to do their best.
Figueroa joins Lewis as the second SRO for contracted by Waxahachie ISD. His position was added over the summer as part of 13 security measures adopted by the district.
Growing up in South Oak Cliff, Figueroa did not see the police being positive role models. He hopes to change that through his daily interaction with students.
“We are here to keep them safe and to enforce the law, but that is not all,” Figueroa said. “We are also there as mentors and as councilors. We are there to help them.”
Figueroa became interested in the position after filling in for Lewis for a month last year. He found working with students very fulfilling.
“The first two weeks were difficult because I had to break the ice with a lot of the students there,” Figueroa remembered. “It seemed like once that third week came around, they got more comfortable with seeing police and were accepting of us. They would come up and start conversations.”
As a father of four, Figueroa has the chance to educate his children about the law and the dangers of the world, but a lot of students don’t get that opportunity. He hopes to be a mentor as he travels from campus to campus this year.
According to a study conducted by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, most SROs make only a few arrests a year and programs nationwide focus on mentoring and teaching. Students in the study reported small but positive changes in their attitude towards law enforcement.
Unlike Figueroa, Lewis will be based at the new Waxahachie High School instead of traveling around the district. Figueroa will have a primary workstation at Coleman Junior.
Lewis stated having officers in schools helps to build trust with students who will carry that with them on and off campus.
“I have been working this summer on regular patrol and have seen quite a few of them, and I will talk with them,” Lewis said. “There might be a large disturbance going on, and a couple of kids will come up and give me a hug.”
Lewis stated building relationships early on strengthens the community and builds trust. He added it also could help aid police in solving crimes because people will feel comfortable coming forward to give information.
“I think in the future, it will help because we will have that relationship with them. For them, they kind of put a face to a badge,” Lewis said. “I think it helps them a lot too because they are around me a lot and can see my personality. I can say I’ll be their friend but me being a friend does not preclude me from doing my job if something were to happen.”
In addition to working with students, both Lewis and Figueroa will be working with district security officers to provide support, as well as share information and resources.
Figueroa stated he wants to work hand in hand with WISD security to improve security at the schools.
Cpt. Eric Kyle, Waxahachie ISD Security, previously shared that both security and police officers play an essential role in shaping the lives of students they work with daily.
“I just love working with kids. I enjoy their enthusiasm. We’ve done a lot of counseling and community service with some of the kids, and try to stay a positive influence in their lives,” Kyle said. “For a lot of these younger kids, we’re the first encounter they’ll have with law enforcement, so it’s important for us to stay in tune with their needs, and understand that at a young age, some are going to make mistakes.”
Kyle stated with the changes taking place in the district the primary focus has remained the same, which is to provide a safe and secure environment for kids to learn and have fun.