Keeping up with Kaatmann


Chris Kaatmann

Kaatmann smiles with a group of students from PCH. Photo provided by Chris Kaatmann

Sophia Spicuzza, Editor In Chief

Did you know that Parkway Central has a former drug buster and mountain biking fanatic roaming the halls? Officer Chris Kaatmann joined Central staff this year as the new Student Resource Officer. As resource officer, Kaatmann is responsible for a wide array of duties. From directing the hectic parking lot traffic to making relationships with students, Kaatmann is seen at Central High doing it all. Many students know Kaatmann from long before he came to Central. Prior to working at Central High,
Kaatmann worked around the area at the four feeder schools: Green Trails, Shenandoah, Highcroft and River Bend. Senior Sarah Malter has known Kaatmann for a long time; she was a student at Green trails Elementary School while Kaatmann was the School Resource Officer there. “He was always my favorite officer. Me and a couple of my friends used to go up and bother him, we would step on his shoes and he would try and run away from us,” Malter said. I always remember feeling really comfortable around him, and he was super cool.” Senior Maggie Schaumburg also knew Officer Kaatmann in elementary school at Green Trails Elementary and remembers him.
“Having Officer Kaatmann here brings back a lot of memories. I love having him here because he makes me feel safe and he’s super sweet and he is a good person to talk to,” Schaumburg said. Officer Kaatmann’s day starts directing the morning traffic, moves into checking in with the staff and students, making his rounds around the school, making his post by the theater during lunches and finishes his day with directing the cars out of the parking lot. Before working in schools, he was a regular police officer for 23 years. He had other positions within the force, and worked with the St. Louis County Drug Task Force (the ATF: Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms). This force is similar to the FBI and investigates drugs around the area. When Central’s previous officer left the school, Kaatmann and a few other officers applied for the position. The position was voluntary, so Kaatmann applied himself instead of being hired through the police department. Principal Tim McCarthy and the other Central staff members interviewed him after reviewing his application, and ultimately chose Kaatmann. His inspiration to become an officer came from his family, although they are not police officers themselves. “My parents either did jobs or they did things outside of their work that were always focused on helping others. A big thing that my dad and mom taught me is, if you have the ability, you should always help people who can’t help themselves. Obviously, this type of work is work where we do help others. So I just kind of naturally
gravitated towards that,” Kaatmann said. “Because I did not have family in law enforcement, I basically just built off that helping others who can’t help themselves. But then as I met other people with family into it, it just kind of solidified even more why I wanted to do it.” Outside of patrolling traffic and stopping petty high school fights, Kaatmann enjoys spending time with his daughter who is a senior at Parkway South, enjoys listening to loud music and enjoys a type of biking called gravity riding. Grav-
ity riding involved getting shuttled or lifted up a hill or mountain, and then riding down the mountain on your bike. “I bombed down it and jump off of stuff. Basically we wear a full face helmet. Terrifying. That’s what makes it fun,” Kaatmann said. He first began riding bikes as a child as that was the way that he and his friends and brothers got around the neighborhood. “I also raced BMX, and as I got older, BMX seemed to be a little more for kids. So I progressed to mountain biking, which is very expensive,” Kaatmann said. “I ended up in the hospital. Last year, I had a broken arm and about 20 stitches. At my age, I’m probably going to have to slow it down a little bit, but I’m going to keep doing it as long as I can.” Since Missouri doesn’t have the right terrain for the type of biking Kaatmann enjoys, he travels across the country during the summer months to ride. “Most of my summers are spent out west in Colorado, New Mexico, and Montana,” Kaatmann said. “The ski resorts turn into mountain bike parks in the summer. We spend a lot of time in Winter Park, Colorado.” The neat thing about biking for Kaatmann is that he can connect his favorite activity and his profession. When he worked at elementary schools, he noticed a grave issue: all the bike racks were empty. “Nobody was riding bikes to school. So I started with one or two kids. I would meet them out in the neighborhoods, I’d ask them, ‘is it okay if I ride to school with you?’ At the schools, we would do regular rides and it was very informal,” Kaatmann said. “I guess I was popular enough that after riding to school with a couple of them, all of a sudden towards the end, there were some days we would have
between, anywhere from 50 to maybe 75 kids riding just at one school. And the racks would get filled up.” Biking with the kids to school makes just as big of an impact
on Kaatmann as it does to the kids. “Like I said, five is pretty meaningful to me. It was neat to see because kids didn’t seem to ride bikes much these days anymore, so
it was fun to see,” Kaatmann said. Malter and Schaumburg also remember biking to school with Kaatmann. “We used to go in the mornings and it was really fun. We
would start on the street and we would get all the way to school, and
it would be really fun to bike to school. I really enjoyed it,” Malter said. Biking or walking to school with Officer Kaatmann was a big hit among many elementary students. Aside from being there with the kids, he gave them the extra benefit of feeling safe. “At Green Trails, we would have Walk to School Days, and Officer Kaatmann would always be there to make sure that we were safe and also made it super fun,” Schaumburg said. And his influence doesn’t stop there. He helped inspire one kid to ride BMX bikes. Through riding with the elementary school kids to school, Kaatmann has helped inspire kids to pick up riding bikes on their own time. A kid in eighth grade at Central middle has picked up BMX racing and is now ranked second in the state for BMX racing. “I’ll go out and watch him race sometimes. It seems like a lot more
kids got excited about riding bikes, and I still hear from some of the kids and some of their families asking if I’m ever gonna come back and ride bikes with them,” Kaatmann said. While Kaatmann enjoys many aspects of his job the highlight of being an SRO is the people. “My favorite part of the job is easily getting to hang out with you, the community itself, whether it’s staff or students. And building relationships, which I think is the biggest part of my position as a school resource officer, is
to build those relationships with the community which includes not just the students but the staff as well,” Kaatmann said. Despite the perks of being an SRO
there is one major downside to the job for Kaatmann. “I don’t know if there’s really been a worst part of it. Maybe the worst part of it has really been when summer comes
and I have to leave the school.We go back to patrol, usually, and have to work midnights and do all real kinds of police stuff. So maybe the worst part of it is that
summer comes, and I can’t be a school resource officer anymore,” Kaatmann said. The students at Parkway Central feel safe with Kaatmann in the building. For Malter, having him here is really neat. “I’m really glad that Officer Kaatmann was my first resource officer and now I get to end with him. It’s very full circle. I remem-
ber him from elementary school, and now I get to end my Parkway career with him,” Malter said. Kaatmann’s main message to PCH community members is that he is here to help. His goal is to be a resource for anyone, and not to be someone to fear. “I don’t want to be viewed as somebody who’s here to catch the bad guys and bad girls. A given with my job is safety, security, and law enforcement. I’d rather the community as a whole, to look to me to be somebody who they can come to for help. Just another
resource around here,” Kaatmann said. “I want to be a helper, I don’t want to be just involved in discipline. I don’t want that [catching people] to be viewed as the only reason I’m here. I want to be that community helper, that resource that you all can come to for help.”
Note: Officer Kaatmann has baseball cards (200 of them) of
himself in his office and is giving them out to students for free!