Centerville adjusts school resource officer assignments

Centerville Police Department officer Brad Eshler talks with students at Tower Heights Middle School about internet safety and social media. CONTRIBUTED

Centerville schools announced changes for School Resource Officer (SRO) assignments for the 2019-20 school year, including an additional full-time officer at the high school.

School resource officers have received more public attention in the aftermath of the mass school shootings around the country.

Centerville partners with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and the Centerville Police Department to place SROs in school buildings.

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According to district spokeswoman Sarah Swan, deputy Gary Fulwiler will continue as the SRO from the Sheriff’s Office, rotating among the schools located in Washington Twp. – Primary Village South, Driscoll Elementary, John Hole Elementary, Normandy Elementary, Weller Elementary and Watts Middle School. Fulwiler has been a deputy for 22 years, with 12 of those as an SRO.

She added that officer Tracy Sommers, a 20-year veteran of the Centerville Police Department who previously served as an SRO from 2009-2014, will move among schools located in the city of Centerville – Primary Village North, Cline Elementary, Stingley Elementary, Tower Heights Middle School, Magsig Middle School and the School of Possibilities.

Two officers – Brad Eshler and Roger Rose – will be assigned to Centerville High School. Eshler has been an officer for 23 years, with three of those as an SRO, and Rose has been an officer for 12 years. Previously, the high school had one officer assigned full-time to the building and another assigned part-time.

“The safety and security of our students and staff remains a top priority for us,” said Superintendent Tom Henderson in a statement. “Adding another full-time SRO at the high school level will give us more opportunities to build relationships with students and staff so we can continue to provide a safe learning environment. We are fortunate to have such a great relationship with the Sheriff’s Office and CPD.”

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At the end of last school year, the high school bid farewell to Officer Jim Stephenson, who rotated out of the SRO position to return to other duties with the Centerville Police Department. Stephenson has been an officer for 22 years and began serving as an SRO in 2013.

Both the Centerville Police Department and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office select SROs through an interview process. SROs must attend a 5-day, accredited SRO basic training course and continued specialized training throughout their tenure as an SRO.

School resource officers have a variety of functions, according to the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police.

“School resource officers … will arrest violators, confront suspicious behaviors, recognize danger and respond according to our training will keep schools safer,” the union said in a statement. “In addition to improving security, SROs build relationships between students and law enforcement, provide a positive role model and serve as guest instructors in classrooms on issues such as drug addiction.”

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