Brent Kiger wanted to be a police officer for as long as he can remember.
For almost eight years, he’s made that dream come true as both a student resource officer, or SRO, at Olathe North High School during the school year and a patrol officer with the Olathe Police Department during the summer.
Now, 29-year-old Kiger of Overland Park is being recognized for his dedication to law enforcement. Kiger was recently named Kansas SRO of the year by the Kansas Juvenile Officers Association.
He was nominated by a colleague who felt that Kiger frequently went the extra mile for students by coming in early, staying late and even chaperoning school trips during his off hours.
Even so, receiving the honor was a shock for Kiger, who considers his efforts all part of a day’s work.
“There are so many schools throughout Kansas, that when I heard I was selected, I was flattered,” Kiger said. “My family was excited because they know how much time and effort I put into it, so they were very happy for me.”
Kiger, who is also fluent in Spanish, has worked as an SRO with the Olathe School District since 2010, beginning his career at Mission Trail Middle School. In a written statement, Erin Dugan, assistant superintendent of the Olathe School District, praised Kiger for his commitment to the students he so closely works with.
“Officer Kiger is not only an amazing police officer, he is a kind, caring and compassionate man who cares deeply about his job, the safety and well-being of our students and this entire community,” Dugan said.
For Kiger, the opportunity to work as an SRO is also an opportunity to help dispel a lot of myths about police officers among young people. He wants the students he works with to see police officers as people who can help them, not just arrest them.
“If a kid has dealt with the police several times, it is usually because of a bad circumstance,” Kiger said. “So I want to help them realize that cops are not bad people. Trying to bridge the gap with some of the more at-risks kids is something I like doing.”
One way that Kiger tries to accomplish this is by building rapport with students. He has an open door policy at Olathe North High School. He wants kids to feel like he is a person they can talk to when they are struggling with a problem or decision.
“They are able to look at it as I am on their side,” Kiger said. “I like to think that they don’t want to disappoint me and that’s not there if we don’t have a rapport. I always leave my office door open. If I can prevent them from having an outburst that is a win for me.”
But Kiger’s job is much more than just dealing with students when problems arise. He spends much of his time presenting to classes about topics such as drinking and driving and drug awareness. And he does a lot of listening. That’s what he thinks is most important in his goal to connect with students and help keep them on the right track.
“I like to talk to them and find out the reason why they are acting out,” Kiger said. “I ask them about their family life and what’s going on in their life. I find that a lot of kids just want someone to listen to them.”
Based on this formula, Kiger feels he really is making a difference with the young people in his school. A few of them even take the time to let him know he has.
“I’ve had kids come back and tell me they are really grateful and that’s what makes it worth it.”