CAMDEN — Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson and deputies appeared at the Preble Shawnee Board of Education’s monthly meeting Aug. 8, to discuss the success of their School Resource Officer program, which just wrapped up its first year in Preble Shawnee schools.
“The program has been very successful so far,” Simpson told the board members and assembled guests. Student Resource Officers are currently stationed at four school buildings throughout the county, Simpson said, including Preble Shawnee Junior and Senior High in Camden and West Elkton Elementary.
The officers are primarily assigned to patrol areas within the school district during the summer recess as well, according to Simpson.
“I know these guys are looking forward to getting back into the schools and interacting with the students,” Simpson said. “Our number one objective is always staff and student safety.”
Deputy Brodie Holsapple has been with the Sheriff’s Department for 13 years. Holsapple looked up to the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program officers who visited his own school when he was a kid, which he claimed was a big part of why he chose to become a police officer.
“I also love spending time with and teaching children,” Holsapple said. “I’m a big kid at heart.”
One goal of the SRO program is to try and change the ways citizens, and especially kids, view law enforcement, according to Holsapple.
“We’re trying to mend and change the perception many have toward police officers,” Holsapple said.
As an SRO, Holsapple not only maintains a presence in the school’s main parking lot during early morning and afternoon hours (when students are getting on and off the bus), but also spends time in the classroom helping to educate students about the dangers of drugs and social media.
“These kids are growing up faster than ever,” Holsapple said. “I want to help teach them that techology is great, but it also has its dangers.”
Holsapple thanked the school board, and the staff at West Elkton Elementary, for making him feel welcome from day one.
“We have an amazing school district,” Holsapple said. “And I say ‘we’ because I feel like Preble Shawnee is my school too.”
Deputy Greg McWhinney, meanwhile, is stationed at the junior and senior high school in Camden. McWhinney said that most of the calls he responds to involve some type of menacing or harassment on social media, though he’s also investigated complaints involving parents bringing in forged doctor’s notes, bullies preying on disabled children, students buying and selling vape pens, and even rape.
“A lot of our job is just being seen,” McWhinney said. “Being visible is a deterrent for a lot of different kinds of things.” McWhinney said he makes a point of being in his cruiser in the parking lot at certain set times throughout the day, so that students know where to find him if they need help.
Board president Julie Singleton agreed officers being seen by staff and students was a big part of their effectiveness.
“That alone goes so far,” Singleton said.
Board member Gary Rader expressed similar sentiments, and said he was glad the school district had decided to participate in the SRO program.
“We’re tickled to death with you guys,” Rader said.
Deputy McWhinney, who is also a member of the National Trail School Board, said he felt good about the way the program was going so far.
“I’ve had fun, and I think it’s going to be even better next year,” McWhinney said. “I think it’s a program that needs to stay in place.”