By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
LASCASSAS — School Resource Officer Joseph Rigsby of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department asked members of Holly Grove Baptist Church here to pray for and show love to students — at his middle school and in all schools and communities.
Rigsby, who works at a middle school, spoke during the church’s morning worship service Sept. 11.
He sees many children in dire circumstances and the society “in tough times,” he explained.
He told of being approached by a student at his middle school, which is for students in grades 6-8. The boy told Rigsby some information about his family. As a result, that same day the child was removed from his family, said the SRO.
“That’s hard,” he told the congregation.
Rigsby was asked to speak to the congregation by Matt Harris, pastor, who explained the school year has begun and Rigsby can give insight into the needs at this school and others. Harris and Rigsby got to know each other at the middle school, where Harris, a bivocational pastor, is an educational assistant.
“Guys that’s what we see. … We’re not out there to hurt anybody until they hurt one of our sheep. …” Rigsby explained that policemen see people under their care as sheep and criminals as wolves whom they must chase off.
Right after dealing with that student he had to go on to another student who was being disruptive and then on to another student who had another issue.
He has visited children in their homes and found 14 other people living with them in a two-bedroom apartment. He also saw how needy they were.
The officer noted that when children are in trouble, it is often “because they’re hurting and they don’t know how to act.”
They just need love which he tries to give them, he added. The job is very difficult because of the problems he and other SROs have to try to deal with, Rigsby said.
“If you break the law inside a school I’ve got to enforce that law,” he explained.
“We’re there for the kids and to help them through their life. That’s the way I look at it and that’s the way I treat my kids. I say my kids because from 7:30 to 3:30 they’re mine,” added Rigsby.
He explained that the new culture of the United States against policemen has affected his job negatively.
Because of the media focusing on policemen making mistakes, said Rigsby, children are wary of him.
“All they see is the media giving us a bad rap and a bad name … ,” he noted. “It takes a long time for me to win over some of those children because that’s all they see … .”
Policemen often have to “look at Satan almost everyday, in the face, and have to deal with it,” he said. While he was on patrol, he saw a child who was killed in a car wreck and then on the very next call had to process a robbery. Rigsby formerly was a policeman on patrol and an undercover cop focused on drug-related crime. He has served for 13 years.
He quoted Romans 13:4 — “For government is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong.”
“Everybody has a calling … and you either answer that calling or you ignore that calling,” stated Rigsby.
Of course, he often interacts with parents of students. Parents tease their children in front of him, warning them to be good or Rigsby will take them to jail. When appropriate, Rigsby tells the parent that he or she should be the ones concerned because he would take the parent to jail before the child.
Rigsby asked for prayer for the children and the SROs like himself.
“Prayer does help; prayer helps us to succeed.”
Harris also spoke, encouraging people to become leaders because of the many opportunities they have in this country. They should reach out to students and families in their communities and show them love, he said.
“How many of you right here this morning knows a child? Who here knows a child who needs an opportunity?” asked Harris.
To encourage other law enforcement officers, Holly Grove Baptist Church hosted about 60 law enforcement personnel of Rutherford County for a meal Sept. 15. The church draws about 50 to Sunday morning activities.