A partnership between the Cambridge-Isanti School District and Cambridge Police Department established in the 1990s supports a School Resource Officer program within the schools, and this year the Cambridge-Isanti High School students will be greeted by a new face.
Cambridge Police Officer Kevin Gross was named the school’s new resource officer, and with his passion for students, parents and the community along with his enthusiasm for the role of SRO, he will make a great addition to the team, according to Principal Steve Gibbs.
“Officer Gross brings a great deal of passion and enthusiasm for the school resource officer role,” Gibbs said. “He is passionate about building relationships with our staff and students and is truly committed to serving in the various roles needed from the school resource officer position.”
Gross received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from St. Cloud State and has been an officer within the Cambridge Police Department since October 2013. Within his time on the department he’s prided himself on developing relationships and being involved in community events.
Using his time as an officer on the streets and within the community, Gross will be able to relate to both students and staff and hopes to make connections based on his experience.
“I think throughout my career I’ve always tried to be involved in all of the community programs,” Gross said. “Getting out there and being able to break the ice and not just the normal, ‘I’m here to pull you over and enforce the law,’ I’m here to make a good relationship between the department and the people of our community.”
“I believe the students in our schools deserve the most opportunities to get that well-started foundations because they are going out into the world with a lot of things to face and the more support as they can get, including that from an SRO has a lot to offer,” Gross added.
Although Gross hadn’t aspired to be an SRO as a child, it’s something that has been a goal of his for a while now.
“I like serving in the community and giving back to the community. Being an SRO in the schools there’s a lot of opportunity for that, to mentor the kids, to get to know them and most importantly to give them the best platform I can for them to learn about the world and how to be a part of it,” Gross said.
“When I think about being an SRO, I don’t just think about being involved in the negative times, I want to be involved in the positive. I want to be able to be in the lunchroom with the students, go sit down and really talk to them and get to know them personally,” Gross added.
The job of the SRO isn’t to put the hammer down on issues within the school, necessarily; it’s to develop relationships and support students in any area of need.
“The SRO program began in the high school and then expanded to Isanti and then a few years ago expanded to having a second SRO in the Cambridge schools,” Cambridge Police Chief Todd Schuster said. “The number one reason for having an SRO in the schools is student and staff safety, another high priority is to build that relationship with the students and give them someone they can look up to and trust outside of their teachers.”
“According to the National School Resource Officers Association it is a triad; they’re one-third informal mentor, one-third law enforcement and one-third teacher or informal educator,” Schuster added.
Gibbs also recognizes the multiple focuses of the SRO program.
“The school resource officer adds another positive resource for our students. The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) embraces a triad model for successful SROs. With that, we look forward to Officer Gross serving to his fullest the capacity of teacher, guest speaker; informal counselor, mentor; and law enforcement officer,” Gibbs said.
With a goal of connecting with students, Gross has an understanding of what a good relationship with those within the school can do for both the students and staff.
“From what I’ve seen in the police department the relationships the SROs have with the students, and how they look up to them creates a relationship which gives them the opportunity to talk to them about anything going on in their life where they maybe wouldn’t approach an officer out in the streets in their patrol car,” Gross said.
After meeting with Gross, Gibbs believes that he will be able to develop those much needed relationships.
“I believe the most important accomplishment Officer Gross can do is build relationships with our staff, students, and the learning community,” Gibbs said. “His role is based on trust, and trust takes time to build. I have a good feeling that he will be able to quickly establish relationships with our community, and therefore create long-lasting relationships of trust.”
While the relationships with students and staff are important, the relationship and partnership between the three SROs in the district is also something to focus on, according to Gross.
“We’ve been talking about addressing issues district-wide so we are all on the same page working together,” Gross said. “We’re meeting with county attorneys, principals, probation, and others just so we are all on the same page. We all have the same goal, finding the root of the problem, and dealing with it district-wide is valuable; consistency helps.”
Jenni Caulk, SRO for Cambridge Middle School, as well as Intermediate and Primary schools, and Adam Gau, Isanti schools SRO, will be vital looking forward for developing programming and addressing issues in all grade levels.
For Caulk, adding Gross to the team is something she looks forward to.
“I feel like Kevin’s outgoing personality and positive energy, along with his goal of getting to know kids and making those connections with be very beneficial,” Caulk said. “One of the big things we’re excited about is partnering with different things, like vaping.”
“I’m excited to have him on board and to meet everybody on the team,” Caulk added.
With his own three children in school in the Cambridge-Isanti district, Gross comes into the position of SRO as both a police officer as well as a parent, a role which he will use to help connect with students, staff and other parents.
“With my own three kids in school — one in middle, one in intermediate and one in primary — seeing the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis makes me realize that not only is it my kids, but it’s everybody’s kids that are facing different challenges and need as much help as they can get,” Gross said. “As a parent, I want to provide that, not just for my own kids, but for all of the students in my stewardship.”