“What are you doin’ now? Are you actually going to class?”
Scott Philbrook and Kendra Raymond were patrolling the hallways at Milton High School last Friday morning. A group of teenage boys crested the top of the stairwell and immediately engaged with Philbrook, the district’s student resource officer for the last four years.
“Philbrook, where you been? You haven’t been here in a minute,” one student said.
“I’m everywhere. I’m omnipresent,” Philbrook said with his signature smile.
But soon, Philbrook will hang up his SRO hat to fulfill his duties as Milton Police Department’s newest sergeant, a rank that will put him back on the road. He was promoted April 1 after 19 years on the force.
Enter Raymond, a nine-year MPD veteran who was tapped last month to fill Philbrook’s arguably big shoes.
Last Monday was Raymond’s official first day of school, and she spent it shadowing Philbrook, setting up her office and meeting key players. Philbrook will remain as the SRO supervisor, however, taking time to check in when he’s on days.
The dynamic isn’t a new one: Philbrook was Raymond’s field training officer when she first started with MPD.
“Things that worked or him, I want to hear it, and I want to continue those,” Raymond said. “He does so much more than just walk the schools, and I realized that after seeing him in the schools for four years that there is so much of an educational piece.”
Philbrook has spent a fair share of hours in classrooms. In the high school, he worked with the criminal justice class, setting up a mock crime scene, complete with evidence and detective kits. The lesson even asked students to write subpoenas and search warrants, interview “suspects” and take a case to trial.
In the middle school, he helped kids apply math to real-world scenarios, showing them how to calculate traffic fines and deduct license points. In the elementary school, he read kids books and painted pictures, small efforts to show police aren’t always so scary after all.
“Every [grade] level has something,” he said, adding with a laugh, “I’m a horrible artist. That’s one thing I’ve learned.”
Philbrook started as SRO in 2014 with help from a federal Community Oriented Policing grant, which allowed MPD to hire a rookie officer to backfill his spot on the road.
Back then, he told the Independent he’d consider his tenure a success if the program was renewed after grant funding dried up. That’s happened, and even further, the school district and town are currently in talks to fund a second SRO.
Chief Steve Laroche thinks that’s because Philbrook is approachable and has worked hard to institute safety drills using the ALICE model, a framework that entered the spotlight after the Parkland, Fla. school shooting.
Laroche said he’s seen parents and teachers in tears upon hearing Philbrook is stepping down. To Philbrook, that’s testimony his largely self-driven effort has worked.
“It’s definitely an honor to have someone have that kind of emotion for me leaving,” he said. “I love helping out in the schools, but ultimately you have to keep moving forward in your career.”
Philbrook has faith in Raymond, who wanted to become SRO because she can relate to kids of all ages, she said.
“Chasing taillights gets old,” Raymond said. “It’s almost like a whole new job. Yes, I’m a police officer, but now you’re also becoming the guidance counselor and the educator.”
Raymond wants students to see her as a resource – someone they can talk to and approach with problems – and not just a cop who’s there to bust them for whatever infraction. She acknowledged, though, it’s hard to shed that image when you come to work wearing a sidearm, bulletproof vest and badge.
“That’s the most challenging [thing] is getting them to see what’s beyond this,” Raymond said, indicating her uniform. “I’m just like you guys.”
Raymond will even shed her title, preferring to be known to students simply as “Kendra.”
“I think maybe some people see me as hard – I don’t always smile? I’m not sure,” she said. “But then I open my mouth, and it’s like, OK. I’m not super private.”
And the work really starts with a few hellos in the hallway.
“To get that kid in that hallway that actually says hi and asks me how I am back – that’s awesome,” she said.
“It is,” Philbrook affirmed. “I can definitely attest to that.”