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Officer Ryan Sullivan walks the halls of Red Wing High School on a daily basis in his role as school liaison officer. (Republican Eagle photo by John R. Russett)

Sullivan settles into new role

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Fresh out of college, with a law enforcement degree from Winona State University, Ryan Sullivan got a job at Minnesota Correctional Facility–Red Wing. Sullivan worked with the youths there and began to see the impact he had on their lives.

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Sullivan said he acted as an informal counselor, teacher and a role model to the kids, which is something he truly enjoyed. His heart was in law enforcement, however, and when the opportunity arose for him to join the Kenyon Police Department part time he left the correctional facility.

So when Sullivan, who has been with the Red Wing Police Department since 2011, learned there was an opening for the liaison officer with the Red Wing School District, he took the opportunity to combine his role as a police officer with his previous experience working with youths.

“They’re the future of Red Wing. They’re the young adults that are going to be in the workforce in a few short years,” Sullivan said. “It’s very rewarding.”

Sullivan stepped in to his new role in January and said he’s enjoyed getting to know the students as well as learning the ropes of his new job.

In a broad sense, he said, his role is to represent the entire school district, which he does through public speaking – mostly related to law enforcement – as well as speaking to driver’s education classes, at career days and sometimes he is there simply to listen to students.

Police Chief Roger Pohlman previously worked at a police department that was heavily involved with the school district and said he knows the value of a good relationship between local law enforcement and schools.

A school is a mini community within a community, Pohlman said.

“They have things that are occurring all the time, and developing that working relationship we can help prevent some of that stuff from spilling into the street,” he said. “But not only that, our officers communicate with each other and we can help things that are happening on the street from spilling into our schools.”

Pohlman said it’s a two-way street and benefits the schools, the police department and the community.

Through his experiences at the correctional facility, Sullivan said he is able to intervene in situations before trouble arises, which is one of the most rewarding parts of the job.

Sullivan has an office at the high school and said he is there as often as he can be. Thursday mornings are usually reserved for the middle school, he added.

With his new position he said he doesn’t get out on patrol as much as he used to, but he still enjoys that part of his work and picks up shifts when necessary.

There are no real guidelines for how long an officer can have the school liaison position. Sullivan said the officer he took over for was with the school district for close to two years and the person before that for 10 years.

Sulllivan said during the break over the summer he is assigned to the investigations division of the police department and will be helping out with patrol as needed.

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