When Attila Korga was a boy, the best days at school were the ones where a police officer came around to talk to the students.
"He'd come and talk to us about bicycle safety, he came and talked to us about safety patrol," Korga said in an interview Friday on CBC's The Morning Edition. "Although he only came twice a year, those were the two best days of going to school."
For much of his own policing career, Const. Korga said he was lucky enough to get the chance work with children in Guelph schools. Before working as a school safety officer and in his final years on the force, as the officer in charge of the VIP (Values, Influences and Peers) program for Grade 6-8 students, Korga went into schools on his days off.
"I joined the police service in 1981 and I volunteered with a friend of mine who was a teacher. I went to her class and did police safety lessons," he said. "It was a real interest of mine." Now, Korga, 55, is set to retire from policing after a 35 year career.
From selling shoes to walking a beat
He started his career after a friend suggested he apply. "I was busy working at a shoe store (in Kitchener) and my friend wanted to go and apply to the Guelph Police Service and he didn't want to go alone, so we went together," Korga said. "I got hired and he didn't."
He worked in a number of different areas of the force, including as a detective, traffic investigatior and general patrol officer, which included walking a beat in downtown Guelph. But he was most excited about getting the chance to work with students and as soon as he could get a transfer, he went for it.
Back to school
"It was something I wanted to do my whole career, so I finally had the opportunity to do it in the latter part of my career," he said.
Guelph police officers have been going into the schools for years, but Konga said one thing never changed: The children always wanted to know about his gun. The first question would always be, "'Is it loaded?' 'No, it's made of chocolate,'" Korga chuckled.
The biggest difference between being a patrol officer and working in the schools was the recognition when he was off the job. Korga said other officers could go shopping and no one would say hi. But if Officer Attila showed up in the food court at the mall, he'd be surrounded by children.
"They'd say, 'There's Officer Attila' and you'd have to be on, even if you're having a bad day, you have to smile and say, 'Yeah, I'm Officer Attila and I'm glad to see you, too," he said. "You can't just put your hat down and say, 'I'm off duty, kid."
Stranger danger, drugs and SnapChat
Being in the schools also meant Korga had to keep up on new technology trends and the latest social media fad. From Facebook to Instagram to SnapChat, Korga had to understand it all.
He said when he first started as a school safety officer in the early 2000s, a lot of the classrooms lessons were about stranger danger. Last week, it was about how to stay safe online. "The focus has changed from good choices around people to making good choices with technology," he said.
Some things, have not changed, though. Korga still had to talk to students about the dangers of drugs, although the nature of the information changed. As well, different drugs started appearing in the community.
No future work plans
Korga said he is unsure what is next, but he does not plan any jobs in security or anything similar to police work.
Right now, he's just enjoying the time off. "I'm sad I had to leave, but it's that time.I would have loved to have done it for a number of more years," he said.
"I'm going to miss the kids, I'm going to miss going to the schools, I'm going to miss all that a lot, but I'm also OK with it."