Veteran cop finds home at high school

Section: 
News

By Josh Howald

Murray Woodman’s new beat is the halls of Kincardine District Secondary School.

This is the sixth year that an OPP officer has roamed the halls of the local high school, Woodman’s first after 23 years of being on the road.

Murray Woodman outside the north doors of Kincardine District Secondary School Friday afternoon. (Josh Howald photo)

“It’s a big change,” said Woodman from his office at KDSS Thursday afternoon. “It’s a nice break from being on the road and shift work. I’ll miss being on the road and the peer support I received, but now I have a set schedule, and really enjoy working with the young adults. I probably knew more than half of them before, and I’m in the process of building a rapport with them. I miss the road, but it’s a new challenge I’m enjoying.”

Contrary to councilor Gordon Campbell’s comments last week, he does not believe that KDSS has a significant drug problem.

“The issues facing KDSS are the usual issues facing any high school,” he said. “I’m basically here to level the playing field and provide a comfortable learning environment for all the students.”

Thursday was one of the busiest days Woodman has had on the job – he dealt with a trespass issue, a bicycle theft and a few other minor issues. However, since he has been on the job, there have been no serious incidents, with a few minor incidents of drugs been found in the school (marijuana). Since the school year began, he has made no arrests and issued four Young Offenders Act warnings.

“Drugs, alcohol, vandalism are all precursors to other issues, but if you stay on top of things they aren’t going to happen.”

Woodman says respect and common sense are his best friends in the halls of the school. After being on the streets for 23 years, very little can surprise him. Students have been opening up to him and he has had nothing but positive feedback from the students and staff so far.

“The program has been ongoing for several years now, so having an officer in the school isn’t new to the students,” said vice-principal Sheryl Elliot. “So far Murray has been excellent. He already seems to have a great rapport with the kids and he has been a big help, not only in the halls but in the classrooms.”

Woodman doesn’t just roam the halls keeping an eye on things. He does classroom presentations on topics like drugs and alcohol, and answers all kinds of “what if” questions from the students. He’s hoping to get involved in things like sports and fundraising, and he also has a police radio in his office. Should any officers require back-up, and it has happened, Woodman assists where needed.

Each morning, Woodman checks in at the detachment, brings a cruiser to the school and does his laps of the school (he says he probably walks about a mile each day). In addition to doing presentations and intervening where needed, his office is always open. And full of candy.

“It’s something Darryl (Campbell) started when he was at the school, and Glen (Fields, last year’s KDSS police representative) and I continued,” said Woodman. “Some kids just drop in a few times each day to grab candy, some stay to talk. Some of the students just need someone to listen to them for a few minutes and that’s that. I’ve probably said at least hello to every student in the school so far.”

That doesn’t mean he won’t be ready if something serious does go down at KDSS.

“While nothing serious has happened so far - I haven’t had to make any arrests - but I’m sure things will occur along the way. I’m certainly prepared, but I’d be more than happy not to make any arrests this year.”

Woodman appreciates the help and respect he has gotten from the school’s staff, as well as the students.

“There are different types of students and teachers at this school, but everybody interacts well and gets along. It’s a great school environment here.”