When Dr. Rod Casey, director of the Theological Education Initiative (TEI), first came to Columbia, he quickly fell in love with the trail systems,...
I’m originally from Chicago. I moved to Missouri to attend college at Lincoln University in Jefferson City and graduated with a bachelor’s in criminal justice. I’ve been a Columbia police officer since 2002 and a school resource officer at Rock Bridge High School since 2011. I have a 23-year-old son, and I am the proud grandmother of a 2-month-old granddaughter. And I’m a member of Second Baptist Church.
What can I say? I love my job. Every day there’s a new challenge. I have over 2,500 opportunities to make a positive impression on someone — that’s 2,200 students and 300 staff members at Rock Bridge High School and the Columbia Career Center, which I’m also responsible for. I’m a liaison between the Columbia Police Department and Columbia Public Schools. My job is to build relationships with students, staff, and visitors. I visit classrooms and talk about the law and topics related to young adults. I talk about use, prevention, and abuse of drugs and alcohol, and how it pertains to the law. I talk about being a police officer, the court system, current and old “hot topics” involving police, and public safety in general. A lot of my job is deterrence through my mere presence and verbal contact — being in the right place at the right time and talking to people. Showing up as a human being, allowing people to see me as a person first and not just as a uniform, has allowed me to build relationships with the community I protect and serve. Rock Bridge High School and the Columbia Career Center is a community within Columbia. All members of the community should help protect and serve; no one person can or should do it alone. But you have to earn a seat at the table with young adults. Most kids want to do the right thing, but they also want to know that they matter and that what they have to say matters. That means listening, not judging, laying out options, and building trust. Since we all have a role and a stake in the community, when something negative is going on, people tell me. That’s my job.
I’m up at 4:15 a.m. Monday through Friday, and I work out at a local gym from 5 to 6 a.m. I start work at 8:30 a.m. Every day, I play music loud enough so the students and staff can hear it as they walk past my office. I found that music is universal and a great conversation starter. On Wednesdays, I play music during each lunch shift for students, and we try to have student talent shows once a month. We call it “Wild Out Wednesdays.” I play all genres of music. My day also includes meetings to support teachers, students, and parents; presenting in classrooms; conducting restorative practice conferences or mediations to resolve conflicts; supervising after-school events and activities; and simply interacting with students. I am also the sponsor of a student dance club called UNIQ.
My mission was to find a stable job to support my son and myself. After I became an officer, I realized I didn’t choose police work; police work chose me. I originally went to college to be a teacher. The second semester of my junior year, I changed my major to criminal justice. Every day, I am given the opportunity to serve people in a way that empowers and encourages me and makes me feel great. This is what God wants me to do. I’m living out my purpose.
That we don’t just see ourselves as police officers in the traditional sense of a patrol officer. We also see ourselves as members of the school community. We’ve always had a community policing approach, where we have a vested interest and impact in the communities we serve.
In doing this job, I’m never off duty. The relationships I build don’t just stop at the end of the school day. They often carry over into my personal life. I’ve spent time working with families in crisis after receiving a call, mentored and given guidance to students who have long since graduated, and gone to countless activities and events to support students in the community even when they’re no longer students. People inside and outside the school community know me as Keisha first, instead of Officer Edwards, and I like it that way.
I would say the negative use of social media has become one of the more challenging aspects of my job. When used as it is intended, outlets like Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter can be positive methods for communication. However, when students and adults use these outlets in ways that are harmful to themselves or others, this creates problems and situations that often filter into the schools and community.
I have 1000 stories I am most proud of. At the end of the day, helping students, parents, and teachers by providing a listening ear, guidance as needed, and whatever resources they need gives me a sense of purpose and fulfillment that is difficult to put into words.
I was a DJ at Lincoln University while a student. This was my outlet to satisfy my love for music. It’s also why I appreciate music to this day. I also love food and trying different foods. I love cooking for others. My favorite dish to cook is seafood lasagna.