Officer Gus goes to school
Gus Watkins has started his role as Molalla's School Resource Officer.
Watkins is the fulfillment of a new position that was made official over the summer. On July 16, the school district and the city signed an agreement to split the cost of hiring a police officer to be posted at the schools.
Watkins worked his first full day at the schools on Sept. 13.
"I'm excited to get this going," Watkins said at the Sept. 13 school board meeting. "I've been working with Canby for the last week. They have a great program going right now. They've been doing it for 18 years. Their administration and their school resource officers work flawlessly together. It's a well-greased wheel. So I've really been looking to them to kind of work with Tony and our principals."
Watkins pointed out that the difference between Molalla's and Canby's programs is that Canby's officers work exclusively at the high school, while Watkins will work at all schools within the city limits. He will primarily spend his time at schools within Molalla's city limits, including Molalla Elementary, Molalla River Middle and Molalla High School.
Even so, Superintendent Tony Mann noted that Watkins likely won't be a stranger to other schools.
"In terms of building relationships with children, one thing Chief Lucich and I have talked about is on Dr. Seuss's birthday, an opportunity to read to children," Mann said, "I have to believe that Gus can give children at Rural Dell or at Clarke's some time to read a book and build that rapport."
And building relationships truly is part of Watkins's goals in this position.
"My goal is not to put kids into the criminal justice system," Watkins said. "It is to work with the administration. If we can keep it in house and they do everything through the school, that's the way we want to do it. If there's a criminal element that needs to be taken care of, that's where I'll kind of take over.
"My goal is to keep our kids safe," he added. "I'm an army war veteran. I've been a police officer for three years—this has been my life goal."
Watkins also is not a stranger to working with kids. He has coached kids' sports, including wrestling and others.
"So I enjoy working with the kids," Watkins said. "If anybody ever has anything that they want to talk to me about, I'm wide open. My door is always open."