MISSOULA - Officer Jim Johnson is well-known as the school resource officer at Hellgate High School.
He’s been at the school for 12 years.
“It”s great. He’s somewhat of an institution here,” said Hellgate’s Principal Judson Miller.
Before he was the school's resource officer, he graduated from Hellgate and played for the basketball team.
He says his alumni status gives him a special connection to the school.
“It’s really neat to be back walking the old halls," Johnson said. "Theres a lot of memories from high school. I kinda have a dedication to the school, a loyalty. I've always liked Hellgate.”
His bond with the school and its population makes it difficult when discipline becomes part of the job.
“When you do write a citation to a student, it's harder because you know that kid," Johnson said. "You know you've dealt with him, you've said hi to him in the hall. You have kind of a relationship so it's harder to write that ticket or take them to jail.”
But Johnson has figured out how to toe the line between discipline and encouragement.
“I had one girl years ago that I arrested her first day of her freshman year of high school," Johnson said. "I just saw her a couple of weeks ago at the hospital and she came up to tell me how she's doing and she's working. She's a productive member of society and, you know, that makes you feel good.”
The care that Johnson shows for Hellgate and its students is obvious and the student population responds positively to it.
“Kids are going to respond to people who are authentic and who care about them and he does that well,” Miller said.
“Thats one thing that I really strive for is to build relationships with the students and the teachers, because you know they come to trust you and they come to you with problems,” Johnson said.
But as Johnson will tell you, it takes a village. So he has developed a relationship with everyone in the village, not just the students.
“We work really close with the counselors. Like I said, the school psychologist, the CSET program. It's a mental health program," Johnson said. “And then the teachers The teachers here are very caring and they love their students and its just a great group to work with.”