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School resource officer Jim Keen faces transfer after nine years on the job

With just a couple of weeks left in his job as Wilsonville’s school resource officer (SRO), Jim Keen is taking some personal time off this week. Although he was headed to Disneyland, the trip wasn’t exactly a vacation. He was volunteering, as he does every year, to chaperone the Wilsonville High School choir on its annual trek to perform at the theme park.

That’s the kind of above-and-beyond effort that has characterized Keen’s relationship with the high school and the city itself. An Aloha resident, Keen has worked as the school district’s SRO in Wilsonville for the past nine years. It’s an extraordinary run that will end June 16 when Keen’s employer, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, reassigns him.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Officer Jim Keen has parked his cruiser in this spot, marked Sheriff Parking Only, for the past nine years while serving as Wilsonville's school resource officer.“I’ll still be in the city, on patrol, until the end of August,” Keen said. His voice was filled with emotion and his office was filled with packing boxes as he prepared to vacate his office at Wilsonville High School.

The average tenure, nationwide, for a school resource office is about four years, according to WHS Principal Aaron Downs.

“We’ve been lucky to have him for nine. It’s been a fun run,” Downs said. “We have been so thankful for Officer Keen’s commitment to our schools and the city of Wilsonville. ... He goes above and beyond his SRO responsibilities. He will be sorely missed.”

With nearly 30 years’ experience in law enforcement, it’s a safe bet that Keen has seen it all. In Wilsonville’s schools, he has handled some situations that rise to the level of crime: drugs, theft and the like. Mostly, though, his job is about preventing those kinds of problems in the first place.

“Kids are going to make bad choices. That’s who they are,” Keen said. “(The SRO job) is also working with kids to help them see the big picture before they make a choice. I’m able to be a positive role model.

“I see a lot of results. We’ve got them going in the right direction. They make a choice, they graduate high school. It’s a good feeling.”

He knows that young people can have difficulty trusting the police, and he worked at the high school for about a year and a half before students fully accepted him. These days, as he walks through the hallways or the parking lot, students greet him with smiles and jokes, and he replies with friendly banter of his own.

“They’re my kids,” he said. “I treat them all as if they were my own. I know how they want to be treated. And they know it.”

When asked what advice he would offer to his replacement as Wilsonville’s SRO, he had a ready answer.

“The biggest thing is, talk to the kids,” he said. “Don’t talk at them. If you talk to them, they’ll talk to you. They’re people, too. They expect the same level of service that you’d give to an adult.”

Just as Keen has adopted the student body into his family, the students have returned the favor. Keen’s daughter Elizabeth, 7, enjoys a special relationship with the teenagers her dad works with.

“I’ll never forget, about four years ago,” Keen said. “My daughter thinks the girls basketball team walks on water. They’ve just had a really big game and won. They worked their butts off. They’re tired. And two of the girls stayed and played basketball with her.”

Last year, the varsity football team made Elizabeth an honorary captain for a game.

“It was a big deal,” Keen said. “One of the things I’m grateful for is the kids helping my daughter come out of her shell.”

After thinking hard, he was unable to come up with any part of his SRO responsibilities that he had not enjoyed performing.

“I’m going to miss the people. The staff and the kids. They’re part of my family. I don’t think I’m going to not miss anything,” he said.

Keen’s enjoyment of his job meant that he would have a hard time saying goodbye.

“I’m going to miss it. I have two hard days coming up: graduation and the day I walk out the door,” he said. “I try right now just to know it’s coming. I try to prep myself for it.

“It’s going to be difficult.”

By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
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