FINDLAY - Sparked by the success of a volunteer program to place police officers in two Hancock County high schools, two deputies will be going back to school full time.
Deputies Michael McGuire and David Spridgeon start their new beats Tuesday in the eight Hancock County high schools.
Their roles will focus on building a better rapport between officers and students while deterring criminal activity inside and outside the schools.
“The intent is just to be present in order to build a relationship with the students in some other way,” said Larry Busdeker, Hancock County superintendent. By seeing police officers in the halls, parking lots, at school dances and sporting events, or teaching a session in government class, students will be more likely to forge a positive relationship than they would seeing officers only “for traffic tickets and crime,” Mr. Busdeker said.
The school resource officers program, which is funded through a $248,000 three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services program, gives officers flexibility to help teach reading, math, and government when asked and enforce the law when necessary, Sheriff Michael Heldman said.
When school's not in session, the officers will work a street beat.
The two officers will divvy their time among Arcadia, Arlington, Corey-Rawson, Liberty-Benton, McComb, Riverdale, Vanlue, and Van Buren high schools.
“It will be a systematic-unsystematic system because we don't want to develop any kind of routine,” Sheriff Heldman said. “We don't want to be in a certain school every Monday.
Susan Best,the sheriff's crime prevention specialist, will have a similar role in the county's elementary schools, Sheriff Heldman said. Her position is funded through a state grant.
The sheriff's office applied for the grant after seeing the success of Deputy Spridgeon's 1998 volunteer initiative to be present in Arcadia and Corey-Rawson high schools, getting to know students and building a stronger youth-officer relationship.
He spent about two days a week of off-duty time in the two high schools. Special deputies, who went through school resource training, took their time to do the same and generated a strong response from students.
“Those officers developed a real positive relationship with the students,” Mr. Busdeker said. “They were greeted in the morning when they showed up. They were available if something happened. It was found they were a big determent for crime.”
Mr. Busdeker said he and superintendents of the area high schools are excited about this initiative.
“It's really unique,” the superintendent said. I wouldn't be so high on it if I hadn't seen such very positive results from the pilot schools.”
Deputies McGuire and Spridgeon were selected from applicants for their commitment to working with youth, Sheriff Heldman said.
Deputy McGuire is in charge of Boy Scouts Law Enforcement Explorers program and Deputy Spridgeon is involved with several youth initiatives including a student-led safe-driving program.
The officers have completed school resource officers training program in Columbus that included instruction on teaching students, Sheriff Heldman said.