DREAM Officer Erica Morris a Voice for the Children
Erica Morris loves children. With two of her own and another 1,200 involved in the San Angelo Police Department’s Drug Resistance and Mentoring Program (D.R.E.A.M.) on San Angelo public and private school campuses, Officer Morris has found her calling.
Native to the area, Officer Morris returned to San Angelo following a divorce with her two children. She was on the search for something meaningful; not just a job to pay the bills, but a career she could be proud of, and it wasn’t long after she’d started as a legal receptionist at the City Attorney’s and Clerks Office that she realized where her heart lie.
“The department I worked for, we regularly dealt with the police department,” said Morris, reflecting on her beginnings here in San Angelo. “I was thinking it [a job in the SAPD] would kind of allow me to do both, have something interesting and work with the public and help people out at the same time,” Morris said.
Following a successful application and training, Morris became a full-time Officer with the SAPD. She’d been on patrol for almost two years when she was sent on a call that would ultimately determine the course of her career to present day.
“I got sent to a call where a younger child had passed away at his own hand,” Officer Morris said. “That was really a pivotal moment for me because…it was just kind of mind blowing for a child to take his own life, and I knew I wanted to help these kids.”
As a mother and a police officer, the call affected Morris deeply, she said. At that time, her son was around the same age, and although numerous factors were at play in the child’s death, she felt herself pulled to the D.R.E.A.M. program.
“The kids need a voice,” says Morris. “They need an advocate.” And when a position for an Instructor in the D.R.E.A.M. program opened up, Officer Morris applied.
Officer Morris is currently involved in her third semester of the D.R.E.A.M. Program. Each semester, she and another officer reach out to approximately 300 fifth graders apiece in San Angelo, and follow up with visits to middle schools throughout the year.
The D.R.E.A.M. objective is rooted in education and awareness, and seeks to make children aware of the pressures they may face and the consequences of their actions.
“I really like this program because it gives us the capability to give them the tools and let them know what they could be faced with as they go further in school and through life,” Officer Morris said. “We hope that they can fall back on the things that they learned in our program.”
Officer Morris has been selected by Lieutenant Mike Hernandez as the SAPD’s Officer of the Month based on her hard work and dedication in her position as a D.R.E.A.M. Instructor, and for the auxiliary work she’s done to promote the D.R.E.A.M. objectives off campus.
Public Information Officer Tracy Gonzalez expounds upon the nomination: “I would say that it [the nomination] is a given. She is so passionate about what she does, Officer Gonzalez said.
“When you look at the specialized divisions within the department…sometimes you see people and they come to work and they do their job, they do it every day,” Officer Gonzalez continued. “But they don’t necessarily have that passion and that absolute belief in a program they’re teaching…So to see an officer do that every day and not get burnt out, is so completely inspiring.”
One of the areas Officer Morris is most involved in is raising awareness about bullying, which she says is a subject that often gets swept under the rug. Morris emphasizes, however, that the scope and medium of bullying has changed over the past decade, and that these areas need to be addressed.
“Back in the day, we didn’t have so many things to worry about,” said Morris, “such as Myspace and Twitter and Foresquare and Facebook, and that whole cyber aspect of it. Used to, the worst thing you had to worry about was physical—fights on the playground or a fight after school—whereas now these kids are getting so much of that, not only from cyber, the texting…”
Officer Morris advocated bringing the controversial “Bully Movie” to SAISD campuses this year, however the school board denied her request, stating that the film would teach students how to be violent. The film was later brought in independently, and sold out over 275 seats for the initial showing.
To further combat the problem, which she identifies as being concentrated among 6th to 8th graders, Officer Morris is promoting the first ever Stop Bullying Walk/Run on Oct. 26 beginning at Kid’s Kingdom Park.
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