Student Resource Officer Omar Kendall had made Palmyra his professional home for the better part of two decades.
The township native and school district alum is finishing the final month of his 22-year run with the Palmyra police department. Kendall announced earlier this month that after a quarter century in law enforcement, he would retire at the end of the year.
“I’m very emotional right now,” he acknowledged. “It’s been a long ride and a great ride.”
Kendall began his career in 1997 at the Burlington County Department of Corrections in Mount Holly, where he spent about three years. During that time, Palmyra fire department member and former Chief Richard Dreby and township police Lt. Howard Norcross reached out to Kendall about an opening in the police department.
“They were looking for home-grown guys and somehow, my name came up,” Kendall recalled. “They reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to join the academy and become a police officer.”
Kendall’s answer was a resounding yes, so for the next 10 months or so, while still working at his corrections job, he was getting his officer certification and training at the county police academy. Once he graduated in April 2000, Kendall was offered a position at the Burlington County Sheriff’s Department, where he spent six months.
At the same time, he was working part-time for the Palmyra police, but in December 2000, Kendall was hired as a full-time officer with the township, where he’s been ever since.
But his duties changed after he became the school district’s first School Resource Officer in 2016.
“To think that I was able to finish up as the School Resource Officer at a place that I grew up and went to school at, my career has almost been like a fairy tale,” Kendall noted.
It’s meant more than words for Kendall to serve his lifelong community. But it’s been during his time working with Palmyra students that he’s gotten an appreciation for the work.
“I’ve had second thoughts about leaving many, many times,” Kendall acknowledged. “…When I first came into the school, I was terrified. They’ve never had a SRO before. I was basically given the keys to a car I didn’t know how to drive. I just had to land on my feet and make it work.
“The kids, they kept me going …” he added. “Being able to interact with kids and parents is something I enjoyed.”
Life outside of law enforcement is a new concept to Kendall. But he’s excited for a new chapter in his life and, make no mistake, he’s not leaving the community anytime soon. Besides, he has plenty of high-school graduations to attend.
“I’ve promised most of my students that I will come back for their graduation,” Kendall said. “I think I’m committed to graduations for probably the next 20 years.”