BETHEL TWP. — Bethel Local Schools’ new school resource officer sees his role in the district as building relationships with students, as well as being a positive role model.
Deputy Warren Edmondson, who has been with the Miami County Sheriff’s Office since 2007, joined the district at the start of the school year. He works part-time in the district.
Edmondson, who is new to the SRO role, said the school setting is totally different from his previous experiences with the sheriff’s office.
“After working on the street, working midnights on the street, dealing with a completely different group of people, going from that into a school setting was a 180,” he said.
The job is a little different from what he first had in mind, he added.
“My thing was, I want to come in and I want to bust kids doing this, that and the other — this was prior to me getting certified in the SRO class. Then I’m going through the SRO certification classes and I’m realizing, this isn’t about me coming in here and finding who’s selling the most weed. It isn’t about that at all,” he said. “It’s about being present, present of mind, being a positive role model, being somebody that they feel comfortable talking to and presenting myself that way.”
In addition to providing security for the schools, Edmondson said the job of a school resource officer is about building trust and relationships with students.
“I used to think it’s just security, it’s not that. Yeah, I’m a cop. Yeah, that’s my job, these kids know that. I wear a uniform. My job is to be a counselor, to be somebody that they can come to if they’ve got an issue,” he said. “We’ve lost something with respect and law enforcement over the years.”
Edmondson has asked students why they think he’s working in the district and many have mentioned school shootings.
“I’ve been in every classroom and I ask, ‘What am I here for?’ ‘Well, because somebody might come in a shoot up the school’ — that’s their first answer. That’s their mindset. That’s scary,” he said. “I tell them it’s not about that, your school is already safe. Your parents and your staff and your district, they care about you so much that they want me here because we want to keep it safe.”
Even in a time of heightened awareness of the need for school security, Edmondson said he’s never had so much fun at a job before.
“I’ve never laughed so much in my life,” he said.
Edmondson said Bethel is a very unique district in the county. The district has been impacted by the construction of the Carriage Trails housing development and has experienced rapid population growth — up to more than 1,500 students this school year from 974 in 2013. There is also a growing group of students whose first language is not English.
Bethel also hasn’t had an SRO since 2011, so having a deputy in the building two or three days a week is new for many students and staff members.
“They don’t know what an SRO did or is supposed to do. So coming in, bridging those gaps, getting people to open up to me, a complete stranger, has been very challenging but positive,” he said.
Superintendent Ginny Potter said Edmondson immediately became a “very strong contributing member” of the administrative team upon joining the district this summer.
“He looks at things from a much more security, safety perspective than all of us and he noticed details that none of us would have thought about,” she said. “Our kids have readily accepted him, our teachers love having him here. Overall, it’s been really positive.”
She said Edmondson works with staff who have received training through the Faculty Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response (FASTER) program and who are authorized to be armed in case of an emergency. Bringing in an SRO was a necessary part of the district’s safety program, she said.
“I felt like that was kind of the icing on the cake to get an SRO in our building to help us continue building the security programs that we are,” she added.
Edmondson and his family live in Huber Heights and his daughters now attend Bethel schools. Now that he works in the district, he notices students and their families out and about and said he likes that students feel comfortable approaching him.
“I want those kids to see me as much as they possibly can, I want them to interact with me as much as they possibly can. I don’t want them to see me as a police officer, in some cases. I want them to see me as, ‘That’s the guy that’s in our school. He’s so funny, he cracks me up,’” he said. “They see me in a church setting, they see me at school, they see me interact with my family. Those are good models for society and for our kids today.”
Edmondson, a Navy veteran, worked as a firefighter for five years. Wanting to do “something more proactive,” he said, he went into law enforcement.
His first job in law enforcement was with the West Milton Police Department, where he started in 2006. In 2007, he joined the sheriff’s office. After a few months in the school district, Edmondson said he’s enjoying the job.
“For me, after almost 12 years (with the sheriff’s office), I still get up with the anticipation of putting on the uniform, the anticipation of what’s around the corner, what today’s going to bring,” he said. “Being here, you get to get that instant gratification because you see the kids and how they respond to you and how happy they are to see you.”
Reach Cecilia Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.