School cop Kenny Hansen has always wanted to be a police officer.

He began riding along with Astoria police officers when he was a rosy-cheeked 13-year-old.

Working as school resource officer for Astoria School District is the ideal job for the 14-year veteran of the Astoria Police Department.

"The job I have - it's not even work," he says. "The paycheck's a bonus."

Hansen, 37, is in his third year policing the district. His position is funded by district grants and the police department. One of Superintendent Larry McMacken's goals was to hire a school police officer, like the one in Forest Grove, he said.

Many large school districts have had police officers for several years, but now smaller districts like Astoria are finding the use for one.

"Kenny Hansen ... gives the students a view of a police officer as a human being," said high school Principal Larry Lockett, who's worked with police officers at other districts. "He's able to be on our campus without being a threatening presence, and yet he's still there when we need him."

Hansen busts high school students who breakfast on cigarettes outside campus. He visits Capt. Robert Gray Elementary School to inform teachers and office staff about an abduction case in Washington. He also pops in on an awards assembly, where his son, a second-grader, is recognized.

Hansen was also raised in Astoria schools. He wasn't the kind of boy to heckle with police officers or breakfast on cigarettes.

"I was the kind of kid who wore baseball caps and hickory shirts," he says.

At mid-morning, he's chasing the case of a missing girl. She left her house early in the morning and didn't show up to school. Hansen interviews several middle school students.

"A lot of the kids are honest with me about the things they do - thefts, drug use," he said. "I think they know that I'm not out to get them."

The cases bounces him between the middle school, the girl's family's house and a house where she spends time with older boys.

In the meantime, Hansen herds students skipping class back to the high school, returns a pair of stolen sunglasses and listens to a report of car prowling in an Astoria neighborhood.

"The school is like a microcosm of the community," he says. "They have all the same crimes ... just on a smaller scale."

Hansen never seems hurried - except when he chases a boy who peels out in the high school parking lot.

He never raises his voice - except when announcing his presence at a suspect's door - "Police!"

And the handgun at his belt, he's only fired it once - into a pile of clothes at a department store several years ago, when a thief charged him.

"You treat the kids with respect," he said, "you get respect in return. I think the thing that bugs me most is when a kid lies to me."

By mid-afternoon the missing girl, who left home on her own volition, returns home and spills the whole story.

All in a day's work for the campus cop.

- Jennifer Collins

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