Jimmy Kennerly has been the Stephenville ISD school resource officer since the program’s inception 10 years ago. It is with bittersweet feelings that he is turning over his school credentials and embracing the status of the semi-retired. His future will be a busy one, though, with an engagement and time anticipated with grandchildren.
1. You have had a number of roles in your law enforcement career, including a stint as a motorcycle traffic cop. What initially led you to decide to become a police officer?
“I wanted to do this since the eighth grade. I wanted to be a cop on a motorcycle. But I ended up going into the Marine Corp. And the whole time I was in there, I kept saying, ‘I want to be a police officer.’
“When I came back from the Marine Corp, I started out as a police officer in Dublin. Then I went to the sheriff’s department, and I was there for five years. When I came to the city, I kept asking the chief, ‘Are ya’ll ever going to get motorcycles?’
“Well, it wasn’t until 1990 when we got the motorcycle program going. The chief told me he wouldn’t put a sergeant on a motorcycle, so I told him, ‘You can take my stripes, but I want to ride the bike.’”
2. You left the motorcycle to pursue your present career with Stephenville ISD. What was the adjustment like for you to move into the school system as a resource officer?
“We do the same things that we do on the street, except we’re inside the school. I have the entire school district from pre-kindergarten through senior high. It’s kind of like a city in a city. There are roughly 3,500 people altogether, including students and staff. I do similar things that we would do on the street. We have some issues that come up in the school like thefts and some assaults, fights and different things. It’s kind of like walking a beat. But it’s also a public relations type program.
“The reason I took this position is to do something different and to make a difference—hopefully in someone’s life. Some of our young people haven’t had a chance to see a police officer in a different light. That’s what I want to do. I’ve seen places where officers aren’t approachable. And we need to be approachable.
“When I started, I didn’t know what it was going to entail. But I wanted to change the minds of our young students. Hopefully, later on in life, they will realize police are human, too.”
3. What experience has made you feel certain you made a difference in someone’s life?
“One experience came up a few years ago. I had a young man I had filed on several times for truancy. I had picked him up several times because he didn’t have a ride and brought him to school. When my daughter graduated, we were with her at the ceremony, and I felt a tap on my back. It was him. He gave me a hug and said, ‘Thank you.’ That really touched me.”