When Deputy Doug Midkiff walks into a classroom, the questions fly:
“Is that a real gun?”
“How many bad guys have you caught?”
“Can I see your handcuffs?”
“What’s a Taser?”
“Is your job fun?”
“What do you do all day?”
“Were you the deputy that arrested the bad guys in my neighborhood?”
Midkiff answers them all.
It’s a role he relishes as Douglas County’s new school resource officer.
“I love my job,” he told Becky Binder’s fourth graders Friday at Minden Elementary School.
“Every day, it’s totally new,” he said.
Midkiff joins Deputy John Meyer as the county’s school resource officers.
The second position was added through a partnership between the school district and the sheriff’s office.
“I feel a 1,000-pound weight has just been lifted off my shoulders,” said Sheriff Ron Pierini. “Every sheriff in the country will tell you that a deadly situation at a school is their worst nightmare.”
Douglas added a resource officer more than a dozen years ago, when shootings began to plague schools throughout the country.
“For five or six years, we talked about the fact that we needed another resource officer, but there just wasn’t the money to fund it. Since 2007, we lost positions in the sheriff’s office and we couldn’t even entertain the thought,” Pierini said.
Pierini said Superintendent Lisa Noonan also recognized the importance of having a second officer for the county’s 12 schools and 6,000 students.
When financing loosened up, adding the officer became a possibility.
“It makes a difference to everybody,” Noonan said Friday. “We’ve now doubled the size of our school resource officer program, and can have someone concentrate on the east side of the Valley. That not only means a faster response time if there’s a problem, but on the pro-active side, the officers can interact with the students and faculty. We’re already seeing how his ability to handle a situation that might develop into a problem is handled with a conversation and a call home in a pro-active way.”
Lyn Gorrindo, assistant superintendent of education services, said the school district didn’t want to wear Meyer out.
“Hiring a second officer has always been a top priority, right at the top of our ‘if we had the money’ list,” she said.
While Meyer is based at Douglas High School, Midkiff is at Pau-Wa-Lu, providing coverage to that side of the Valley.
They have designated schools, but serve as backup district-wide..
“If we didn’t have the SROs, our patrol officers would have to respond to the schools,” Pierini said. “We get 40,000 calls a year. The patrol officers would be taken away from their beats.”
Pierini said Meyer has done “an outstanding job defusing situations before they happen,” and he expects the same from Midkiff.
“They are building a rapport with students, and they’re (the students) the ones who will tell you something before it happens. I think people understand the uniformed officer is there to help kids with problems at school, and with problems at home,” Pierini said.
Midkiff joined the DCSO four years ago. He graduated first in his class from the Peace Officer Standards and Training academy. He told Pierini at his job interview he wanted to work with kids.
“That’s the caliber I wanted,” Pierini said. “He’s well-educated and really cares.”
When the SRO job opened up, Midkiff applied.
The 38-year-old Midkiff moved to Lake Tahoe in 1986, and graduated from Whittell High School in 1993.
He and his wife and children live in Minden.
“I love working with kids,” Midkiff said. “That’s why I volunteered for DARE and GREAT programs.”
He encouraged parents to contact him as well.
“I want kids to know they can come to me for anything. I’m not just there for ‘bad guys.’ I am there to help, to be someone they can go to when they have a problem. I’m always going to be around.”
Noonan said Friday she saw Midkiff talking with a student at Pau-Wa-Lu.
“He was just having a conversation with the student. It was nothing to the level of serious consequences, but that student now knows what happens if he goes down the wrong path. With just one resource officer, we didn’t always have time to do that,” she said.
“Deputy Midkiff wants to contribute here. This is his world,” Noonan said.