WENATCHEE — They call him J2.
“I answer to all of it,” said Wenatchee Police Officer Jared Shepard, who, accompanied by Officer Jared Reinfeld, has been roaming Wenatchee school hallways for the past week learning the ropes as district’s second school resource officer.
“It’s convenient,” Shepard joked. “They don’t have to remember our names. We are trying to figure out what to call me. So far it’s been J2 or Jared2.”
Whatever they call him, he is happy to respond.
“I’m getting a huge amount of support from teachers who say, ‘Nice to meet you. Glad you’re on board.’ It’s nice to hear, to be welcomed like that,” he said.
He officially started the job Oct. 1, following an agreement between the school district and the city to split the costs of two officers who, rather than patrolling Wenatchee’s streets, spend time in the schools.
“This is awesome, in part because everyone else is excited about it,” Shepard said, on the school side and city police department side. “There’s a sense of pride that we are part of an agency that is willing to work with the district to provide part of the costs. That shows that as a department we care about kids and schools.”
SRO duties include responding to calls as they come in while overseeing safety plans and focusing on building relationships with students, staff and teachers in the hopes of preventing problems.
“It’s good to get into the schools and form a bond and a trust with students,” Shepard said. “I’m looking forward to watching them progress through middle school and into high school and beyond. I want to have a positive impact on kids.”
Shepard, 42, has been a Wenatchee patrol officer for three years, moving his family here from rural Nebraska, where he served for five years as a deputy sheriff.
The role of school resource officer is filling some of what he missed about his previous job — the community outreach aspect.
“I enjoy getting to know people and forming relationships,” he said.
He got some of that as a volunteer at local events — Touch A Truck, Polar Plunge, Run With a Cop and Special Olympics.
When he heard a second school resource officer position was being considered, he was interested.
Then Reinfeld, who has served in the post since 2017 and helped push for the district to hire a second officer, chimed in.
“He said he thought I would be a good fit and talked extensively about his job and what it entails,” Shepard said. “He loves his position. He’s not shy about telling you that.”
When the job opening became official, Shepard applied.
“I am looking forward to the opportunity to get out with the kids and hang out,” he said.
The job has more to it than that, of course.
“We will still have calls for service and a caseload, but this gives us the opportunity to be proactive rather than reactive. That’s a huge aspect. Crime happens, but it can be prevented if it’s caught in time," he said. "Reinfeld has been a one-man show in a large school district. He doesn’t have a lot of spare time to have lunch with students or play four square at recess. We can do some of that stuff now, to get to know the younger kids."
The plan is for Shepard to focus on the district’s three middle schools, while Reinfeld continues at the high school. They will share duties and events at the elementary schools.
The two are working on setting goals, including working on safety plans, beyond the typical active threat. They also serve as a liaison with other police officers, putting together maps of the schools, for instance, that would serve as a resource. And they hope to work with parents on education around everything from drug use to cyberbullying.
Shepard does have an "office" at each of the middle schools — Orchard, Foothills and Pioneer — but isn’t sure how much he’ll be using them. Keeping office hours at each of the schools would be nice, but might not be in the cards.
He expects to spend some time at the high school football games and the upcoming homecoming activities. He also will be introduced to the school board at its Oct. 22 meeting.
His first challenge is getting to know administrators and staff on a professional and personal basis. The rest will follow.
“The biggest learning curve is getting used to the job,” he said. “Before I was working patrol, so my primary duties were responding to calls, the majority of which were dealing with adults. Now I’m going to be dealing with juveniles. Along with that, comes the parental aspects. I’m looking forward to that, though, working with parents on youth-specific issues and partnering our resources, working as a team to ensure students are making good decisions and taking the right path.”