Profiles The Kindly Cop of Euless

Rick Griffin is not your average cop on the beat. His office is in a high school and teenagers take up all of his time.

He is a counselor at Trinity High School in Euless – one of the few communities unafraid of having uniformed police working on a high school campus. The theory is to use the schools to identify problems and then to find a community solution to those problems.

Sunshine House was one of those “solutions.” It is sometimes called “the house built with kid power and convict labor.” It was a joint program between the city of Euless and the Texas Correctional Institution. Carefully selected inmates at the prison – most notably Bill Young, a transactional analysis counselor – worked with Griffin in a youth program designed to keep teenagers away from behavior that would lead them to prison.

The program was started in January, 1975. The Council for Social Concern in Euless sponsored the group and went before the city council to get $5000 for Sunshine House. Walking around the house at 114 North Sheppard, Griffin gets wistful at the names of “his kids” written in yellow paint around the patio stones. Johnny, Joe, Debbie, Kim, Bob Ray, Mike – “Mike’s dead now – killed in a highway accident after a rock concert …. You know, those names really bring back memories. Johnny’s in Houston now going to a trade school and doing fine …. Remember Bobby? He’s working now and has really got his head together. I really feel good about him.”

But Sunshine House ended. Not because it wasn’t working but because funds were cut back at the prison and the lay counseling program was eliminated. Only one of his kids has gotten into serious trouble – “It really hurts because he was one of our first boys. He’s sitting in the Tarrant County Jail accused of rape. I don’t understand what happened. He had been doing real well in the service. The only thing to do is to sit and wait.”.

Today Griffin is involved in a new program – working with school attendance problems. It’s a pilot program aimed at behaviormodification. Mother, father and teenager all get involved to try to solve their child’s truancy problems. Five families are involved initially. If it works, the program – operated in conjunction with the University of Texas at Arlington – will be expanded.

Watch Griffin walk through the Trinity campus and you’ll hear student after student greet him. His door is always open and he sees four or five students a day. Sometimes a group of kids will gather and talk about “hassles with the pigs.” More than once, Rick recalls, someone will gulp and apologize, “Rick, I’m sorry. I forget that you’re a cop.”

On his desk Griffin keeps a shriveled brown thing encased in plastic. It’s an apple he received years ago from the Future Teachers at Trinity. He was so proud of it he wouldn’t eat it, leaving it to wither and shrink. “It got to where the kids would come by just to see my apple.” Finally one student took it home to encase it in liquid plastic.

“I know it looks terrible, but it means a whole lot to me,” Rick says.

Griffin, 28, and his wife Debbie are expecting their first child in February. When he talks about it, he grins. Behind him on the wall, a needlepoint made by Debbie echoes his grin: a laughing pig leaning on a fence post.

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