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Resource officer ‘graduates’ from DHS

by Sheila Gardner
sgardner@recordcourier.com

Meet the new Greg Shields, retired Douglas County school resource officer.

He’s still bald, still smiling, but is favoring lavender shirts and at least two-a-day trips to the gym instead of the familiar dun-colored deputy’s uniform and long hours at Douglas High School.

Shields, 56, retired July 16 at the end of summer school, after 10 years as the school resource officer.

“Everything was going great in the schools and at the sheriff’s office,” he said in an interview Thursday. “I thought I would leave on a high note.”

He joined the sheriff’s office in 1984 and worked all divisions including patrol, investigations, the jail and for two years lived at Topaz as the deputy-in-residence.

Shields became school resource officer in 2000, a year after 15 people died in a shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.

The position was funded by a grant from the Department of Justice.

“You’ve got to like kids. You’ve got to realize the position they’re in in their lives, how they dress, how they talk, how they act,” Shields said.

And, sometimes, “you have to yell at them if they’re not getting it,” he said.

Shields worked out of Douglas High School, but he was available for all the schools in the district including Lake Tahoe.

Over the years, Shields said he saw the students’ behavior improving. He credits that in part to the school administration.

“They (the students) are better. They are better disciplined, better at controlling the small stuff,” he said. “(Principal) Marty Swisher had that at the middle school and he brought it to the high school.”

Deputy John Meyer is the new school resource officer.

Meyer, 46, joined the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in August 2008. He has 23 years experience including several years as a juvenile probation detective and school liaison officer in New York state.

He’s also a dad, with a daughter in seventh grade at Carson Valley Middle School and a son in 10th grade at the high school.

“My kids grew up with it,” he said of his presence at their schools.

Meyer became acquainted with Douglas County in 2007 while still working as an officer for the Town of Manlius, N.Y.

“I do the Police Unity Tour every year from northern New Jersey to New York City to Washington, D.C. I was in the metro station in Washington in my uniform and Kevin Schaller came up to me in his uniform and told me he had lived just a town away from mine in New York,” Meyer said.

Schaller, a Douglas County deputy, was in Washington in May 2007 for the National Peace Officers Memorial.

“We got to talking about Lake Tahoe,” Meyer said. “Years ago, my wife had skied at Tahoe in the Junior Olympics. And here I am.”

He also joined the National Ski Patrol at Heavenly Valley.

Meyer spent two years on patrol and filled in for Shields at the high school. He is excited about the position.

He plans to be at the door Monday morning greeting Douglas High School students on their first day back.

“When a kid walks up to a police officer in the hallway and shakes hands or says hello in front of their peers, that’s huge,” Meyer said.

He sees his role as law enforcement officer, counselor and educator.

“I am really excited for Monday,” Meyer said.

Sheriff Ron Pierini credited Shields with providing a calming influence at the high school.

“Once Greg got over there, the number of incidents that required our response dropped a lot. He’s been a mentor for a lot of kids and helped eliminate a lot of bullying and intimidation,” Pierini said Friday.

“I’m going to miss him and I know a lot of faculty at the school and the students are going to miss him. Whenever I saw him over there, he was surrounded by kids. They liked him and trusted him. He treated them very confidentially. He really had a great relationship with the students,” Pierini said.

The sheriff said he was pleased Meyer was taking over the position.

“With his experience in New York, John has a lot of background and knowledge for the job. He’s a fair man and really makes great decisions. He’s more of a leader than anything. Since he’s been here, he’s done a great job. He works with a lot of the new recruits and really keeps them on track,” Pierini said.

Shields and Meyer expressed appreciation for the support they get from the school district.

“I’ll miss the students and the staff,” Shields said.

He said the most difficult part of his job was dealing with the death of a student or staff member.

“It was so unpredictable. We’d go years without any, then have two or three in a semester,” Shields said.

His advice to Meyer – besides updating the decor in Shields’ former office – was to enjoy the experience.

“Have fun, have a good time,” Shields said. “It was the best part of my law enforcement career. It’s been wonderful.”