Gary Bowen served as the Chief of Police in Collinsville since 1985. He entered law enforcement in 1979. Currently Bowen is the School Resource Officer (SRO), at the home of the Panthers, at Collinsville High School. Over 900 students, in pre-K through 12th grade depend on him daily.

Bowen is originally from Collinsville. His father’s work took the family to Tennessee for a time, but Bowen came back to what he refers to as “home.”

“This is where all of my family was and I wanted to raise my family here,” said Bowen.

After serving as Chief of Police for over 30 years and seeing pretty much everything, one would think his days of being educated on law enforcement would be complete. “The training I received for my new position as SRO was surprisingly intensive,” said Bowen. “The bad life choices that are available to children is ever evolving. For example, today’s children are vaping. We have to evolve in our education too, to help guide them onto a better path. The 80 hours of education I took updated me about the dangers today’s youth are facing.”

This father of two teaches D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) class to 73 fifth graders. “One of the techniques we use in class is the D.A.R.E. box. Students put questions in a box without their name on the paper,” said Bowen. “This method allows me to address things that are on their minds, concerning life matters and choices, without embarrassing anyone or putting them on the spot.”

Plans are being put in place to teach a Criminal Justice class next year at Collinsville High School. The Criminal Justice class teaches high school aged children about law enforcement and gives them insight into the work officers do on a daily basis. The hope is that some of them might want to go into that line of employment or some other type of civil service work. At the very least it might instill in them the respect due those in these authoritative positions.

The officer who teaches a Criminal Justice class is accredited for the certificates he or she has accumulated over their years in law enforcement and then takes courses, as needed, in areas in which they might need certification to permit them to teach.

The SRO is not assigned to a school just because they carry a weapon, but for their ability to compassionately interact with young people. They seek out the children who appear to be the most picked on or overlooked and become their friend. The SRO is tough enough to be firm with a young person who is taking a bad path and soft enough to shed a tear when the same child walks across the stage at graduation.

– This column, written by Marla Ballard, will appear as a series in the Times-Journal weekend editions to feature DeKalb County School Resource Officers. A series highlighting the SROs in the Fort Payne City School System will follow.

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