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Monday, August 26 News

Staples police officer reflects on first year

WESTPORT — It has been nearly a year since Staples High School opened its doors to the first-ever police officer to be housed in the building.

School Resource Officer Ed Wooldridge has since established his own bond with students and faculty.

Wooldridge, 49, who joined the Westport Police Department in February 2017 as a patrol officer after 23 years with the State Police, said he stepped into the SRO role because he enjoyed working with youth.

“I’ve coached a lot of youth sports and I like interacting with the kids,” Wooldridge said. “I thought this would be a perfect fit for me.”

At the beginning of the year, Wooldridge said he would walk around the school greeting students and casually talking to them.

“People laugh at it, but I walked right up to students and introduced myself,” he said.

During a Staples High School soccer game, he also came up with another way to bond with students: A game of catch. Students were initially hesitant, but soon became engaged in the game.

“Now, if you spend a day with me they’re asking ‘Ed where’s the ball?’ ” Wooldridge joked.

His reputation for enjoying a game of catch has even grown beyond students, with one Staples senior’s family giving Wooldridge a new ball to use.

“I think it’s cool,” he said. “It’s the little things that make the difference.”

As the school resource officer, Wooldridge wears many hats, taking on the roles of officer, teacher and sometimes counselor throughout the year. He teaches an internet safety on social media to freshmen and sophomores, and also has an open-door policy for students.

“If they don’t want to go to their principals or guidance counselors, they can come to me and talk about it,” he said. “If it’s something I can’t fix I’ll find them the right help.”

Throughout the school year, he has been active in preventing many issues, including an incident in which a maintenance worker was allegedly secretly recording a student in the cafeteria.

Wooldridge happened to be in the cafeteria when he said he noticed the worker acting odd.

“Police work can be 90 percent luck,” he said of the incident. “Part of that is being observant when doing things. My main focus here is safety for the students and administration in the school. ... I’m just glad I was able to catch it.”

Staples High School Assistant Principal Pat Micinilio said he was always in support of having a school resource officer.

“This year we understood why it was important to have one,” he said. “Ed has done everything in his power to reinforce the reason why we need one.”

Micinilio said Wooldridge has created invaluable bonds with students and faculty. “He’s just been an incredible hire and he’s a perfect fit for this building,” he said.

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Next year, Wooldridge hopes to start a criminal justice club, which would feature speakers and police officers from different units to come in and address students.

“It’s about bridging the gap between (police) and the community,” he said. “I think it would help tremendously.”

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com

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