Birmingham SRO aims to engage students before they find trouble.
By Dan Campana
Adjusting to a new school can be tough at any age, but making the right connections takes on a different meaning for school resource officers.
In Alabama, Birmingham Police Officer Alex Vildibill used some dance moves to break the ice with students at a class picnic during his first few days as an SRO at Ramsay High School.
“My partner, SRO Larry Heath, encouraged me to get out there with the kids. I really didn’t think about it when I started to dance,” Vildibill said.
Heath captured Vildibill on video jumping in as students moved in unison. Vildibill watched the others to follow the steps and flashes a big smile while trying to keep up.
“I was happy to … interact with the kids. I believe they enjoyed me being out there, as well,” Vildibill offered. “I enjoy interacting with the students and teachers on a daily basis. I have learned that a lot of the kids will come and talk to you once you have earned their trust.”
Although the video picked up media attention – and several thousand YouTube views – it’s just a small snapshot of this nine-year police veteran’s story. Before putting on the badge, he enlisted in the Army in 2006 and deployed to Kuwait and Afghanistan in 2011 and 2013, respectively. The military experience set a tone for his law enforcement career.
“I feel like the Army taught me to be a team player and to be confident in the decisions I make,” he said. “I believe the Army helped set my foundation of becoming a police officer.”
Vildibill worked patrol for a time before becoming an SRO in the department’s Community Services Division.
“I was hoping this assignment would allow me to reach some of the more troubled kids before they got caught up in bad situations in the streets,” he explained. “I also hoped to change their perspective on how they view the police since a lot of what they hear from others is negative.”
Recognizing that being a police officer has its good and bad days like any other profession, and that the job itself has changed a lot since he started, hasn’t changed Vildibill’s passion for policing.
“I am proud to wear a badge,” he shared. “Law enforcement is still a close-knit group; it is still a great feeling knowing that you have people who will watch your back and be there if you need them.”
Time has also taught him simple lessons, such as keeping an extra radio battery handy, and to keep vigilant through it all.
“Never turn your back on a crowd of people; keep your gun clean; there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop; always be aware of your surroundings; and, no matter what, end your shift the way you started it,” he noted. “We have to look out for each other because most of the time we are all that each other has. When a law enforcement officer is hurt or killed, it hits close to home because that could be any of us.”
That said, he offers high praise to his peers, locally and beyond, who have his back.
“There are a lot of great police officers here in Birmingham and in the state of Alabama. They all deserve to be recognized,” Vildibill added.
Read the entire 50 Badges series here.