Whether directing traffic or walking the hallways, School Resource Officer Ray Brandenburg has been a familiar sight at Berea Independent Schools. Now after 45 years in law enforcement, 10 of which have been at Berea Community, Brandenburg will be retiring on July 28.
Brandenburg retired as the chief of the Berea Police Department in 2002, then came back as the school resource officer in the fall of 2006. He said out of all of his work in law enforcement, the last decade has been the most gratifying because of his opportunity to work with kids, some of whom struggled in school. “I still have some of them come to visit me at the house after they’ve graduated. I hope I have made a difference,” Brandenburg said.
As for future plans, Brandenburg said that’s to be decided. “I really haven’t thought about it yet. I’d like to get into something part time, but after I’ve been out of it for a while, I was thinking I might substitute teach. I’ve been thinking about it because I like being around the kids,” he said.
Superintendent Mike Hogg said the district would be delighted if they could get Brandenburg back on campus. “I don’t think he’s the kind of guy who will go home and do nothing. He’s an energetic, active person with a lot to give. So we’re hopeful he’ll consider subbing for us. It’s up to him, but we’d certainly love to have him back in any capacity in which he wants to serve,” Hogg said.
Hogg cited Brandenburg’s calm and reassuring presence among the reasons teachers and staffers consider the former chief more of a school employee rather a police officer. For example, Hogg noted Brandenburg always ate lunch with the students in the cafeteria, and he made it a point to interact with kids when they were between classes.
“He’s been one of us for the last 10 years, and he’s done just a fantastic job developing relationships with kids,” Hogg said. “A lot of the kids he develops relationships with are kids who may not have had positive interactions with the police in the past. So just his ability to connect with them and ask about their lives has been a positive influence. He’s just been a good guy and a good part of our community.”
According to Hogg, Brandenburg is also one who encourages kids who may struggle academically, urging them to keep trying despite the difficulties they may face. For that reason, Hogg credited Brandenburg with perhaps being part of the reason Berea Community High School has a 100% graduation rate. “The more encouragers we have in school, the better, and Ray has certainly been a fantastic encourager of kids. We’ll miss him a lot,” Hogg said.
As for Brandenburg’s successor, Berea Police Department Chief David Gregory said it will likely be Officer Bill Eckler, who is currently the school resource officer at Foley and Madison Southern. In the meantime, Gregory said he will miss Brandenburg, both on a personal level and as a veteran officer in his department. “We’re definitely going to miss him,” Gregory said. “He’s been a mentor to me in my police career, and I know he’s been a mentor to students. He’s done a lot for this community and the school, and he’s just been a great asset.”