Back to school . . . Constable Jay Morriss has taken over as the school community officer for the Oamaru police. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Jay Morriss joined the police to make a difference.

After working on the frontline for the past eight years, his focus is now shifting to the district’s youth, taking over as Oamaru police’s school community officer.

Const Morriss started in the role on Wednesday, and has replaced long›serving senior constable Carrie Hamilton, who left the police earlier this year.

He knew he had ‘‘big shoes to fill’’ and he wanted to continue the good work of Snr Const Hamilton.

‘‘I’m excited about it, really.

‘‘I have kids that are at school myself and I guess I just want to maintain the safety messages that police promote are heard far and wide within the community . . .so that the children grow up to be great members of the community.’’

Through his job, Const Morriss will roll out initiatives and programmes at schools throughout Waitaki, helping to teach youth about safety.

Over the years, Const Morriss had been involved in the Respectful Relationships film programme about family violence, and he had connected with schools throughout the district.

When the opportunity came up to become the school community officer, it seemed like a natural progression, he said.

‘‘I’ve been getting involved a little bit in the schools already and just saw it as a great avenue to hopefully be a person of influence for them and someone that the kids can trust.

‘‘For me, the main thing is just maintaining that positive police presence.

‘‘There’s a number of instances where maybe children’s view of the police may not be positive, so it’s just hopefully building and maintaining a relationship which enables police to be seen and that police are there to help.’’

His first focus was to make contact with the schools and find out how police could help.

After living in Cambridge, in England, for seven years, Const Morriss and his wife, Sasha, decided to move back to New Zealand with their children.

Considering his career options on their return, the police had a strong pull for Const Morriss.

‘‘The police resonated with me in terms of looking to help and make difference and also just helping to maintain the community that I want to live in.’’

Once in New Zealand, his family moved from Dunedin to Oamaru.

It had been a fantastic community to live in and raise their four children, he said.

‘‘We’re just really happy to be in this community. We came to this community not really knowing anybody . . . it’s just amazing, looking back at the time we’ve been here, the amount of friends and people we’ve met.

‘‘It’s a really great place.’’