Meet Eric Locke, OPRF's new school resource officer

OPRF student returns, looks to expand tutoring programs

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By TERRY DEAN

Eric Locke used to walk the halls as a student at Oak Park and River Forest High School, and now strolls the corridors as the school's new school resource officer.

Locke, 27, a four-year member of the Oak Park police force, stepped in as the school's SRO in December, replacing officer Rasul Freelain, who was promoted to detective.

Locke, married with three children, grew up on the West Side, but attended Lincoln Elementary School and Emerson Junior High (now Brooks Middle School) and spent his freshman year at OPRF, 201 N. Scoville. He transferred to Marshall High School on the West Side, and attended Illinois State University, graduating with a bachelor's in criminal justice.

Locke was originally a pre-med student, but his grades weren't up to par for medical school, he said. He had a 3.3 GPA, but needed a 4.0. He switched to law enforcement, a profession that ran in the family. His uncle was a state trooper and his father was a probation officer.

"I knew I couldn't sit at a desk everyday and I wanted to do something different, so I decided to give law enforcement a try," Locke said.

He joined the Oak Park police force four years ago, working a couple of years prior with the Chicago Park District as a special recreation counselor while working toward becoming a cop.

He began his career as resident beat officer, and sometimes filled in for OPRF's SRO, working dances and basketball games. He applied to become the full-time SRO after Freelain made detective. Out of seven candidates to apply, Locke was chosen by his superiors and OPRF administration.

Locke said he wants to be a mentor to young kids, just as older guys mentored him when he was younger.

"The four and a half years that I've been here, my whole career path has been toward juvenile-related issues," he said. "As a kid, in the neighborhood, a lot of the older guys took us younger guys under their wings. I respected and liked that, and thought it was time for me to return the favor to the younger people when I got a little older."

Locke is still on the police force, returning to full duty during the summer. He checks in at the station and is there for meetings, but spends the bulk of his time during the school year each week, Monday through Friday, from 7:30 in the morning to 3:30 in the afternoon, at OPRF.

Locke said he wears several hats. He works with the school's building security and discipline deans, and has given presentations in class on safety and other topics. He mostly deals with students daily, and not just for disciplinary issues.

As the SRO, he also coordinators the school's MUREE (Males Uniting to Reach Educational Excellence) program.

Locke would like to expand the program, which brings students together to resolve conflicts and is a complement to the FREE program (Females Reaching for Educational Excellence), for female students.

MUREE, Locke said, is not just for students with discipline problems. He'd like to broaden it to include tutoring, and job-skills building.

"You see the kids in the hallway and you get to know their name," he said. "After a while, you want to be pretty good with the kids' names. I want to be able to deal with them on a first-name basis. It comes pretty quick because you see the same faces everyday.

"And some people in the building like to call you sir, and I'm definitely not a 'Sir' person. I'm pretty open, but I don't consider myself different than anybody else."

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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