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Getting to Know the School Resource Officers

School Resource Officers (SROs) – St. Paul Police Department officers who work in our high schools – have been a part of SPPS for nearly 30 years. Their role in our schools have evolved and continue to change to meet the needs of today’s students and schools. The District renewed its contract with the police department last month after seeking and receiving feedback from stakeholders. Meet the team of committed SROs who work with our schools and community.
 Cortez Hull  
Cortez Hull - Highland
How long have you worked as a police officer in St. Paul?

I have worked for the St. Paul Police Department for 15 years.

Why did you want to be an SRO?
Throughout my personal life and throughout my police career, I have always been involved in youth outreach, coaching, training and mentoring. I care about kids! I felt that in the schools, I would be able to make a positive difference in some of the young men’s and women's lives.

What’s the best part of your job?
The friendships you develop with the students, staff and parents. It’s when students, teachers and parents get that you are a person (who works as an officer) who really cares about people. It’s when the students care about you, because you have cared for them. It’s when you get a high five from teachers because you've just kicked their butts in the weight room. It’s when you are walking down the hall and students say “hi” to you.

What’s the biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is helping people understand what it is that an SRO does at a school. While I am all about enforcing laws and making sure people feel safe, I am not JUST the cop at the school. I am sometimes a counselor, teacher, therapist, coach, mentor, social worker, father figure and personal trainer. It is has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. I am a part of that village.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I am usually spending time with my family. Other than that, I love to learn about ways to help myself and others improve their health, fitness, results and life. Call me a nerd, but I enjoy it. 
 Toy Vixayvong  
Toy Vixayvong - Como
How long have you worked as a police officer in St. Paul?

I have been a police officer for 16 years.

Why did you want to be an SRO?
I always find it rewarding to be able to work with students and be a mentor. I get to know students on a personal basis -- who the students really are and their background.

What’s the best part of your job?
Being able to interact with students as well as staff members and provide the school with a sense of security.

What’s the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge at Como High is that some students are homeless. They live with different friends that are able to take them in. They struggle financially out in the community. Finding ways to help these students is a struggle.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I like to spend time with my kids doing family things or going to their sporting events.
 
Tong Yang  
Tong Yang - Johnson
How long have you worked as a police officer in St. Paul?

I've been a police officer for nine years and School Resource Officer for five years.

Why did you want to be an SRO?
I am a product of Saint Paul Public Schools, and want to reflect the kids and community I grew up in.

What’s the best part of your job?
Working to bridge the gap between police and community.

What’s the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge being a police officer, and a School Resource Officer, is dealing with the public and political misconceptions of what we do.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
When I’m not working, I enjoy spending time with my family.
 
Cort Baumgart  
 

Cort Baumgart - Humboldt
How long have you worked as a police officer in St. Paul?

I have been with St. Paul for 15 years. Humboldt since May.

Why did you want to be an SRO?
I wanted to try something different. Working with youth. School is a lot different then when I was in school, so I was looking for a different experience.

What’s the best part of your job?
Working with kids and staff at Humboldt.

What’s the biggest challenge?
Working with kids. As an adult it’s always a challenge to find new ways to get through to kids and get their attention.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I enjoy anything outside. Mowing the grass, cutting down a tree, going to the pool, anything outside is relaxing for me. 
 
Sam Santoya  
Sam Santoya - Washington
How long have you worked as a police officer in St. Paul?

I have worked for St. Paul Police for 17 years. I am a temporary School Resource Officer, and a missing persons investigator with the Saint Paul Police Department.

Why did you want to be an SRO?
I enjoy working with kids. I’ve coached in the past and want to stay here and help coach wrestling when that starts this winter. Being a police officer, and a school resource officer, is all about building relationships. Working in the schools is where those relationships all start. It’s important to meet kids and let them know that police officers are their friends. When I’m on patrol, I always engage with kids. When I see a group of kids, I jump out of my squad and throw the ball around with them. I always keep stickers in my pocket. Again, it’s all about building relationships.

What’s the best part of your job?
I like helping people with problems they may have with their family dynamics, at school and with relationships in life to help them navigate through different situations. I also enjoy encouraging kids. Some kids have never been told they can do whatever it is they want to do, so it’s important to me to encourage kids, to let them know they can do it.

What’s the biggest challenge?
To change the minds of those who are afraid of the police, which is what I expected would be a challenge when I began in this role. I’ve been a police officer for a long time, and these challenges facing police have been around for a long time. I’ve always liked talking to people, and I think building community relationships helps with officer safety issues. I want people to know me as a cop, who is also a good guy.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I enjoy hanging out with my family. 
 
Mark McGinn
 

Mark McGinn - Central
How long have you worked as a police officer in St. Paul?

I have been a St. Paul Police Officer for 10 years. I'm starting my fourth year as an SRO.

Why did you want to be an SRO?
I wanted a role where I could be part of deterring students from jail and keeping a safe learning environment.

What’s the best part of your job?
Seeing students get through tough obstacles in their life and succeed. Most of the students we have interaction with are in some type of crisis.

What’s the biggest challenge?
It can be difficult speaking with some students or staff who have a negative assumption of your role before any personal interaction.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Spending time with my wife and kids.
 
Mike Tharalson
 

Mike Tharalson - Harding
How long have you worked as a police officer in St. Paul?

Saint Paul Police Officer for 23 years. I’ve been Harding’s SRO for the last 10 years.

Why did you want to be an SRO?
To have the opportunity to work with youth and be a positive contact for them. To be in the hallways and interacting with kids. To be a positive influence on kids. Building relationships with kids. If they can have a positive interaction with me, they’ll likely interact with police differently when they are in the community.

What’s the best part of your job?
Interacting with students and staff. Being here and available, interacting with kids and being a positive impact and being here when they want to come in to talk.

What’s the biggest challenge?
Trying to dispel the beliefs that many staff and student have about what I do. There is a lot of talk about whether police should be in school buildings or not, and I think there is a lot of misunderstanding. I don’t think people understand all of the positive interactions we have with students on a daily basis.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Spend time with my children.
 Dustin Ator
 
Dustin Ator - Mobile SRO
How long have you worked as a police officer in St. Paul?

I've been an officer for 11 years. Been working in Saint Paul Public Schools for a total of four years.

Why did you want to be an SRO?
To work with the up and coming youth within the city. I want to be a mentor if needed, give students a presence of security and safety, as well as develop a friendship.

What’s the best part of your job?
To be a mentor to those who need help or assistance in any way. Being a parent myself, I truly understand the difficulties life may bring to students within schools and I like to be a support line when needed.

What’s the biggest challenge?
To be able to reach all those who request police assistance.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Spend quality time with family and friends.  
 
Bill Kraus
 
Bill Kraus - Mobile SRO
How long have you worked as a police officer in St. Paul?
I've been a Police Officer for 23+ years, 22+ in St. Paul.

Why did you want to be an SRO?
I initially applied to be an SRO primarily for family reasons. The schedule gave me more time to spend with my children. Once I settled into the job, I found out that I really enjoyed working with the students and staff, and that I was very successful building bridges with both.

What’s the best part of your job?
Working as an integral part of a team with the administrators, social workers, teachers, counselors, and other staff members to help students through difficult situations.

What’s the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge has become finding effective, realistic solutions to many of the complex and dynamic situations we deal with as police officers, while still satisfying the expectations of the school district.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I enjoy spending time with my family, model railroading, archery, hunting and fishing, snowmobiling, four-wheeling, cooking, working in my yard, walking my golden retriever and studying US history.