‘It’s Officer Ray!’ Elementary schools SRO is a celebrity among students
Published 1:16 pm Thursday, August 24, 2023
By Abigail Roberts
If you have a child in a Lincoln County elementary school, chances are you’ve heard of Officer Ray. There are few places in Lincoln County that School Resource Officer Ray Sayre can go without kids flocking to him and his police cruiser – and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
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Sayre has been a SRO in Lincoln County Elementary Schools for seven years, and it’s a job that he not only loves, but takes very seriously.
Sayre is among the 120-or-so SROs in the throughout Kentucky who have completed a 120-hour training course to earn the title of SRO III.
“It’s 40 hours a year, for three years, and I have completed all three years,” Sayre said. “That makes me feel honored to be able to do that.”
Sayre is a 30-year veteran of the University of Kentucky Police Department and is also a Kentucky-trained D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer.
That’s a program that he hopes to implement in Lincoln County Schools.
Sayre spends most of his time bouncing between the district’s five elementary schools: Stanford, Waynesburg, Highland, Hustonville and Crab Orchard.
Interacting with the kids is by far his favorite part of his profession, he said, and he jumps on any chance to help a child get through a hard day. Not only does Sayre help children work through hard times, he also helps his fellow police officers by showing kids – who will one day be adults – that the police are there to help.
“Unfortunately, today these children are surrounded with the drug culture and, in my opinion, the social media culture. They’re not given the opportunity to see the truth as it is, they have to rely on social media,” Sayre said. “They listen to this and they’re not able to differentiate between the truth and the rumor and I think that hurts a lot.”
Sayre said he wants kids to know that he’s their friend.
“I want them to know that they can come to me and I will talk to them and I will answer their questions as honestly as I can,” he said. “I want them to know that we’re their friend, not just myself, but every officer here is their friend and will help them any way that they can.”
It’s not always an easy job, as sometimes the parents of these kids have to be arrested, Sayre said, and they don’t always understand why.
“The children see that and, of course, it’s our fault that we have to come and do that,” he said. “I don’t want them to think that that’s all we do. I want them to know that we do a lot of good things and just sometimes people make mistakes.”
Seeing children advance in school or do well in school without the presence of their parents is hard, he said.
“To see these children not having people there who want to be there… they want their mom and their dad to be there to celebrate with them, to enjoy their advancements and to help them grow,” Sayre said. “I’ve had several incidents like that and it just breaks my heart.”
Sayre said it makes his job a lot harder when adults use him, or other police officers, to scare their children into behaving.
“It makes me mad. I cannot stand it when a parent looks at a kid and says ‘If you’re not good, I’m going to have him arrest you,’” he said. “Don’t use me to be a parent. I don’t want them to be afraid of me. I don’t want them to think that if they make a mistake I’m going to arrest them.”
Sayre said the hardest part of his job is knowing a child is hurting and he can’t take that hurt away from them.
“Unfortunately, I can’t be everywhere at once,” he said. “I can’t be with them at night when they have bad dreams. I can’t be with them every time they fall down.”
Sayre tries to make it to every elementary school at least once a week, though sometimes individual situations call for more attention. He also helps with police-related programs during and after school.
Students love asking Sayre about his equipment and his job, he said.
“I’m available to them. I’ve told the schools and I’ve told every child I can, that if they need my help I’ll be there, or one of us will be there,” he said.
Sayre praises the children when they do well, and he helps them learn right from wrong when needed.
“Like a grandfather, I let them know when they can do better and how they can go about being better,” he said. “I don’t tolerate a bully, and I let the kids know. Any time I can go into a classroom and talk to them, I do. I try to nip that as quickly as I can when I hear about it.”
The most important thing is to let kids know he’s available to them, he said.
And it shows. Sayre can’t even go to the grocery store without at least one child recognizing him and running to get a hug.
“I love them and I congratulate them every chance I get,” Sayre said. “One of the things I told the department here is, the day that you tell me I can no longer hug these children when they want a hug, is the day you’ll get my resignation. I receive so many high-fives and fist bumps and smiles from these babies, it really thrills me.”
Sayre’s dedication to his profession was recently recognized by the Stanford Police Department as he was named the 2022 Officer of the Year.