WOODS CROSS -- Woods Cross High School Student Resource Officer James Sheldon was recently selected as the School Resource Officer of the Year by the Utah Council for Crime Prevention.
Sheldon, 36, excelled in the statewide competition by improving the safety of the schools and the community he serves. In his fourth year as a student resource officer, Sheldon spends his time working with students at Woods Cross High and several of its feeder elementary schools.
"I've done many different things in law enforcement, and by far this is the best assignment I've ever had," said Sheldon, a 14-year veteran of law enforcement. "I can go out and write tickets, make arrests and get drunks off the street, but I feel like I am being proactive in getting these kids early and being a positive role model.
"I feel like I can make a bigger difference in their lives to prevent (problems) from happening (later on)."
In addition to enforcing the law and school rules, Sheldon takes special interest in school clubs and programs. He frequents many sporting events, dances, and extracurricular activities.
"All of these actions provide me with the opportunity to create relationships of trust with the students," Sheldon said.
"He is always out in the halls talking and visiting with kids," said Steve Park, WCHS principal. "He works with students before and after school, and during lunch. They see him as a responsible adult they can come to if they see something that is not right at school."
Sheldon teaches a high school course on law enforcement, administers the "Alive at 25" defensive driving program and coaches the boy's golf team.
When he began offering the law enforcement class this term, he had more registrants than available seats. The course was subsequently limited to seniors.
"That's a tribute to him," Park said. "(The students) already know and have a relationship with him. They already want to learn from him."
Sheldon was praised by his supervisors as one who helps kids recognize the real-world applications for what they are learning in the classroom. He helps them understand how the information can be applied to future situations and careers.
Park said many teachers and administrators welcome his input in disciplinary situations because he handles them in a nonthreatening way.
Sheldon was nominated for the award by Woods Cross Police Chief Greg Butler as well as several administrators at the different schools.
"Officer Sheldon has forged relationships with students, faculty and administration that have enriched the curriculum at the high school, enabled positive change in the lives of at-risk students and even solved a few crimes along the way," Butler said.
In his duties at the high school, Sheldon uncovered a theft ring that stretched across the Wasatch Front. The investigation began when he discovered a firearm inside a vehicle at the high school and resulted in thousands of dollars of recovered property.
"If you have a good student resource officer, it is amazing what a difference it makes in the school," said Tibby Milne, CEO of the Utah Council for Crime Prevention. "He is exemplary, a great officer. I'm real glad that he is out there."