“It’s always good to see her around. She’s always smiling, always can talk to her,” St. Mary’s Central High School junior Austin Link said.

Link is referring to Officer Karin McNamee.

Officer McNamee has been a Bismarck police officer since 2004. But law enforcement wasn’t her first career choice. She spent some time in the speech pathology field.

“I did some volunteer work with the Cass County Sheriff’s Department and decided that that would be a good career fit for me. So, I applied out here and I’ve been here ever since,” McNamee said.

McNamee said the career change was drastic in some ways, but those career fields have blended together well.

“A lot of it is communications-based and law enforcement is very heavily communications-based. You talk with people, you interact with them. So, I think I’ve used those skills in a lot of ways,” McNamee said.

“It’s been a tremendous blessing to work with her,” St. Mary’s Central High School Principal Reed Ruggles said.

Ruggles said though a school can function without an on-duty officer, having McNamee at the high school is not only a blessing but also a visible sign of protection.

“I think that’s what kids need when they come to school is that they feel safe. If they can’t feel safe at school, it’s difficult for them to have a clear mind to think,” Ruggles said.

“She’s just really an amazing person and I’m glad to have her,” Wachter Middle School seventh grader Adriana Turner said.

Turner also recognized how vital a school resource officer can be.

Officer Scarlett Vetter has been a Bismarck police officer for 12 and a half years. Though she didn’t switch from one profession to another, at one point Vetter did explore another law-related career.

“I actually wanted to go into law school and I ended up down this path instead,” Vetter said.

Vetter explained that her desire to work in law came from when she was younger and had some interaction with law enforcement.

“Not always on a positive note and so I kind of wanted to be that person to maybe make a little bit of a difference during those tough times,” Vetter said.

“She’s…I would use the word solid,” Wachter Middle School Principal Lee Ziegler said.

Ziegler is happy to have Vetter there to protect and serve, he’s also glad to have her there in another capacity.

“It really is the education piece too. That’s why she’s here to help educate kids on things that they can that might keep them out of trouble and things like that,” Ziegler said.

It should be noted, a police officer doesn’t get assigned to be an SRO, they have to want it.

“I love working with kids. I think you can kind of help mold them and build relationships with them, sometimes easier than adults,” Vetter said. “I like it a lot. I’m old enough now some of the kids that have been in school are getting into law enforcement themselves and that’s really fun to see,” McNamee said.

Both Vetter and McNamee said they’ll be happy to serve as school resource officers as long as they’re able.

In addition to Wachter Middle School, Vetter is also the primary SRO at South Central High School. McNamee covers Light of Christ Catholic Schools and Shiloh Christian School.