A longtime Dade City Police Department school resource officer (SRO) won’t be patrolling the halls and campus of Pasco High School anymore.
Brian McDougal joined the police department in 1990, straight out of then Pasco-Hernando Community College’s law enforcement academy.
The bulk of his service has been spent as a familiar face in local schools.
Before his 17-year stint at Pasco High, McDougal became the police department’s first SRO when he was assigned to Pasco Middle School in 1994.
He had to step away from his SRO role this year because of an ongoing leg injury he said stems from an arrest he made in 2018.
While he’s leaving that position,he will remain on the Dade City force as a reserve officer, to assist with multi-subject trainings.
“I just got to the point where I can’t walk, can’t do my job as a resource officer on 99 acres,” McDougal recently told The Laker/Lutz News.
He said he will miss the interaction with kids.
“It’s having that feeling of making a difference in a young person’s life that’s made it all worthwhile for me,” he said.
Dade City police detective Pete Emerson will serve as Pasco High’s SRO for the 2019-2020 school year. He last served in that role from 1997-2002, until, ironically, McDougal took over for him.
McDougal began his law enforcement career as a patrolman, and eventually worked his way up to detective. Advancement opportunities arose after he passed the police sergeant’s exam.
His passion, however, remained in schools “to bridge that gap between cops and kids.”
“I was just trying to really make a difference. My heart told me I just needed to stay as SRO,” said McDougal.
McDougal acknowledged that the responsibilities of a resource officer have evolved since he took his first post in the mid 1990s — particularly when it comes to school safety in the age of school shootings and other violent threats.
“As a resource officer, you’ve got to have your head on a 360 (degree) swivel all the time now, constantly looking, constantly watching. In your mind, you have to be prepared for the absolute worst and fall back to your training,” said McDougal.
“You used to be able to go to school and say, ‘OK, I got this.’ You know, pretty comfortable in your environment and not have to worry about a lot. But then, Columbine happened, 9/11 happened and the snowball effect for our safety, that’s where it all changed.”
When he put on the uniform each day, McDougal was reminded about the importance for the consideration of the whole student body.
“If those kids don’t know we care as law enforcement, if they don’t know we care, then why should they?” McDougal said. “If you’re going to go out here and be a public servant, you treat everybody with compassion, you treat everybody how you want to be treated, you don’t lose your temper just because they do.”
Now in quasi-retirement, McDougal said he plans to start a firearms safety instruction business.
He also wants to become a blacksmith to tap into his Scottish roots, and craft ornamental ironworks and knives.
“Before the (History Channel) TV show “Forged in Fire” ever came on, it’s something that my Scottish ancestors did, so that’s what really got me interested in it. Being a McDougal, we’re pretty Scottish,” he said with a hearty laugh.
For McDougal, working in law enforcement fulfilled “a lifelong dream.”
“Ever since I was a little fat kid, I always wanted to be a cop. All the TV shows I watched, I was the good guy,” McDougal, who was born and raised in St. Petersburg, said. “I’ve been very blessed in my career. I can’t deny it. God has watched over me from Day One.”
The longtime resource officer was formally recognized for his service during an Aug. 27 commission meeting.
Dade City Police Chief James Walters said McDougal “took his job seriously” when it came to ensuring school safety, and praised him for his work ethic and commitment to the job.
“What an honor it has been to serve beside Brian for almost 30 years,” Walters said.
“If anybody that knows Brian from any time at Pasco High School over the last 20-some years, he’s as much of that institution as W.F. Edwards Stadium or anything else to do with Pasco High School, and he’s going to be missed.”
Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez also thanked McDougal for his service and keeping students safe. She said he leaves “big shoes to fill.”
Addressing McDougal at the commission meeting, Hernandez said: “I know the times that I’ve spent at the school and had a chance to interact with you, those students love you. I mean, they respected you. I know your job probably wasn’t easy there, but I know that a lot of the students have so much admiration, and love and support for you.”
Published September 11, 2019