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Monday, May 27
The Indiana Daily Student

education

Safety officers present in MCCSC schools

Jim Witmer, the current resource officer for the Monroe County Community School Corporation, has a range of responsibilities that are aimed to keep students in Monroe County schools safe.

At the time, Witmer was running for Sheriff, but he dropped that race to become the officer in charge of protecting and educating students.

“They’re a part of the everyday environment,” said Mike Johnson, First Vice President of the Indiana School Resource Officer Association.

Resource officers are trained with a 40 hour course from the National Association for Resource Officers. It is based off what Johnson called the “police triad.”

SROs wear three “hats” while they are working with the school corporation, Johnson said.

Their first hat and the one least used is that of a police officer. The SRO is not there to police the school like they would streets.

“You can’t police that the same way.” Johnson said. “It just doesn’t work.”

An SRO offers themselves as a role model for kids by being present in the schools and building relationships.

“You need to build relationships with kids,” Johnson said.

The second hat that officers like Witmer wear is that of an informal counselor for kids. They work in conjunction with the Bloomington Police Department program Cops in Schools.

BPD Capt. Steve Kellams said that Cops in Schools is designed to help children relate better to the police force. Witmer, himself a retired veteran of BPD, does the same thing on a more in-depth basis.

“It is a way to provide a security presence, as well as to humanize the police to the kids in our community,” Kellams said.

Cops in Schools is more focused on simply being present in the community, while Witmer takes it a step further with the third part of his job.

The third hat that resource officers wear is that of an educator. Andrew Clampitt, public information officer for Monroe County schools, said that Witmer has proven a resource to the schools.

“He oversees safety in general for all the schools,” Clampitt said.

Witmer is responsible for educating students and teachers on fire drills, tornado drills and active shooter preparation, among other roles. Witmer also leads safety training for students throughout the schools.

“He’s an invaluable resource,” Clampitt said. “He’s very nice to have on staff.”

Clampitt said it was good to have a former police officer as their SRO and it gave the school a “different set of eyes.”

However, Johnson said there is a danger if resource officers are not trained properly in how to handle the school environment.

Resource officers are supposed to empower students with their own safety by being role models, counselors and educators. When they are properly trained that is exactly what they do, Johnson said.

“I think we’re a part of the total solution.” Johnson said.

Clampitt said that over the last five years Monroe County schools have boosted the level of safety and safety awareness in the school corporation.

However, if not properly trained, resource officers can try to discipline and police the school system like the streets, but that is not the way to make students feel safe, Johnson said.

“Kids can’t learn if they don’t feel safe,” Johnson said.

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