Profile: protectors with pride

The unpredictable job of a school resource officer


Photo by Sasha Kek

Mark Frey, school resource officer, stands with Matt Aiello, dean of students, across from the main office, where they normally greet students. “He listens, he doesn’t lecture. He is there to listen and he will offer advice. He’s at all the events and he’s there as a person who wants to be there; he’s got no other agenda,” Aiello said. “He wants to be there for the students, he wants to be there for the staff. He can take a joke and he can give a joke. I think just his demeanor, you see him and I often in the halls and we try to say hi to everybody. He tries to say ‘hi’ to everyone and jokes with everybody. I think he brings a really calming presence to our building.”

Law enforcement is not a profession cut out for everyone: it requires the ability to run into danger when everyone is running out and a dedication to keeping communities safe at all costs without looking for praise. Detective Mark Frey, school resource officer, has dedicated 14 years to keep the school and Lake Zurich safe.

“I don’t do it for the accolades. I’ve gotten awards, I’ve been recognized for things, but that’s not what a lot of us get into this for,” Frey said. “We do it to help communities, help other people and if we do get recognized on and down the road for what we’re doing, we appreciate it, but it’s not like we’re working towards awards, medals, honor, or recognition in any way.”

As a police officer, Frey says he has to adjust often on duty and has to adapt to various situations all the time.

“We have to shift gears a lot in our job. We could have to deal with somebody who had their credit card stolen one day, or a neighbor’s dog’s been barking for four hours and they wanted to stop, and then the next call could be a fatal car crash right on Route 12, where there’s a child that’s seriously hurt,” Frey said. “After that, it could be back to that noise complaint, that next call, so a lot of times we have to shift gears on how we deal with and how we see things.”

One of the aspects law enforcement officers are trained for are traffic stops, which Frey says “are the most dangerous aspects of law enforcement.”

“When I talk to all our Drivers Ed classes, I always tell them that traffic stops are the most dangerous aspects of law enforcement and my profession because you never know who you’re dealing with when you’re pulling somebody over. You don’t know where they’re coming from, what they’re doing, where they’ve been, what kind of day they’re having, so there’s a lot of unpredictable factors that come up,” Frey said. “In a 911 call, we get a lot of information when we’re on the way, so we get an idea of what to do and how to do things, but if we’re pulling somebody over, sometimes we’ll know if it’s a stolen car ahead of time, but even then we don’t know who’s inside or what they have inside the car.”

But the unpredictability of the job did not stop Frey from going into law enforcement, and he has worked with District 95 schools as the Lake Zurich Police Department school resource officer. He says the reason he became a police officer was to “help people and make a difference.”

“I went to school to become a teacher. I worked in Rolling Meadows High School as a security guard and I coached when I got out of college, so I’ve always wanted to work with juveniles and kids,” Frey said. “People make mistakes, and it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you learn from those mistakes; sometimes when you make mistakes, there’s some consequences that, unfortunately, people have to hold you to. That’s why I like being here as the school resource officers because I get to work in the school environment and I get to talk to juveniles and kids in high school.”

Although some students may feel intimidated to have a police officer in the building, Matt Aiello, dean of students, says Frey is “approachable, humble, and focused on his job,” and Frey wants to make everyone feel comfortable around him.

“We present at freshmen orientation every year, and the fact of the matter is he’s standing there as a police officer with a weapon,” Aiello said, “but he wants everyone to be very comfortable, and not be nervous about his presence, or worry that just because there is a police officer here, something negative is on the horizon. Detective Frey is someone who is very approachable, very friendly, and committed to not only his job as a police officer, but the students of Lake Zurich as well.”

Aiello has worked with Frey for six years and says he has become “a good friend” and is dedicated to students, always keeping their best interests in mind when making decisions.

“Having worked so closely with Detective Frey helped me really recognize the similarities, in terms of the overall goal, of working with people. He wants to help, he wants to support, he’s willing to get involved and do anything he can to help students and help our teachers, and help make sure our school is safe,” Aiello said. “He’s become a good friend of mine, and being able to work with someone so closely, so often, you really respect them, but most importantly, you really trust them; you know that decisions are being made and all of our actions are with the students’ best interests in mind.”

Similar to policing, a school resource officer’s job is also unpredictable, and Frey says “it’s a fun spot to be in for me.”

“I tell a lot of people that I’m kind of a dean, a social worker, a counselor, and a police officer all kind of wrapped up in one, and I have to change those hats depending on the situation,” Frey said. “That’s the fun part about this job, that I get to do all those different aspects. Just because I am a police officer and I get to wear a gun and have a badge and a bunch of radios, I am here to help people just like a social worker would help somebody if they’re in crisis or need assistance with something.”

With the unpredictability and dangers that come with policing, Frey says there is one main goal that police officers work to achieve.

“Usually the goal of our shifts everyday is to go home safe. If we can do that, that’s a win,” Frey said. “I have a wife, I have three daughters and it’s always fun to see them in the morning. My wife, when I get called out for something and I don’t get home till later, she’s always like, ‘When are you coming home? Are you going to be okay?’ I have to check in with her just like you have to with your parents because our loved ones at home worry about us; they know what’s going on and that the job is very unpredictable. It’s hard for some people to realize that we’re still human beings. We still have family and friends just like everybody else, it’s just we have a lot of professions that we have to see and do certain things that some people don’t like to do, but me personally, I’m okay with that. It’s what I signed up for.”