This is Home: School Resource Officers work to build positive relationships with students

Safety is priority one; Positive relationships is priority two for Washington Co. SROs
WTAP News @ 6
Published: Sep. 9, 2022 at 7:41 PM EDT
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Marietta, OH. (WTAP) -

With students heading back to the classroom, school safety is on the top of mind for many parents.

In Washington County … there is a team of four officers and three K9′s patrolling hallways to heep kids free from harm.

Members of the Washington County School Resource officers met recently to talk about the new school year, the importance of them being in schools for the safety, protection, and well-being of the students.

For three of the SROs that includes their partners ... K-9 officers specially trained in therapy.

They walk the halls, answer safety questions, handle disciplinary actions and criminal investigations.

Those are the usual duties we think of for School Resource officers.

According to Washington County’s SROs… the relationships built between them and the students is just as important as the safety side of their jobs.

Deputy Sheriff Harlow said he interacts with the students in the morning. “I’m always right there. Brody and I are right there greeting them every morning.”

They are there every day walking the halls as much a part of the students’ daily lives as their teachers.

“I’m going into the schools right now, and my goal is to start to create a relationship with the kids, especially the young ones, so I really like to see them as they go and get older into high school. They still acknowledge who I am,” SRO Sury explained.

Deputy Harlow said there are stereotypes they are trying to change. “There’s that stereotype out there that when you see police officer it’s usually because of bad reasons, so it’s nice to be in the schools to get ahead of that to show that kids that we’re not just a bad thing, that we’re more good than bad.”

This daily contact helps the officers do their jobs…according to Warren’s SRO Deputy Ellie Reynolds, “seeing me everyday I’m a familiar face so it’s a whole lot easier to report those things, either to a teacher because they know that the teacher would report it to me, or they report it to me directly.”

Feeling safe while learning is key says SRO Deputy sheriff Matthew Martin

“We want them to be comfortable with us. We want them to feel like they can come to us if they need something. We want them to see more than just we’re the ones to arrest people and take them to jail.”

One big way some SROs are working to bring that positive relationship with students is through therapy dogs.

The addition of therapy dogs is said to help students with emotional struggles, deescalate situations, and help students feel safe at school.

Deputy Sheriff Martin joked about how his job has changed now that he’s added his K9 partner, Axel. “Well I pretty much don’t exist now. No, he’s a great addition…He definitely helps build that rapport between the kids and the law enforcement, it kind of softens the law enforcement side of things, so they’re able to connect with us at a different level just us being law enforcement.”

Deputy Reynolds also reflected on how her interactions have changed by adding her K9 partner, Wednesday. She definitely helps the kids open up to me a lot more. They don’t see this uniform. They see the dog first and then they just look at me as normal person instead of seeing a uniform like they did the two previous years.

“If there’s things kids have a hard time talking about it’s more they know they can… not so much talk to me, but they can talk to Brody. They can kind of release that stress and anxiety through petting him,” said Deputy Sheriff Harlow.

Therapy dogs have been a relatively new addition to the SRO program in Washington county. Currently, Wood County Schools does not have the therapy dog program.

You can read more on the interviews below. You’ll here more information about what it’s like working in the schools and working with their K-9 partners by watching the clips below.

Deputy Sheriff and SRO Michael Harlow

Deputy Sheriff Harlow and his K9 partner Brody have been together since March of 2017.
Deputy Sheriff Harlow and his K9 partner Brody have been together since March of 2017.(Alexa Griffey)

Harlow is a full time resource officer at the Washington County Career center. “Every minute that the kids are in school I’m at school with them. Help with arrival, walk through the school, help with the office staff, the school admin if they have questions, if there’s any disciplinary things, I help with that, criminal investigations,” explained Harlow.

K9 Officer Brody is a therapy dog at Washington Co. Career Center with Deputy Sheriff Harlow
K9 Officer Brody is a therapy dog at Washington Co. Career Center with Deputy Sheriff Harlow(Alexa Griffey)

Harlow and Brody were partnered in March of 2017 while working as a police officer at Ohio University. Brody was assigned to OU as a bomb dog after the Boston Marathon bombing. When Harlow left O.U. P.D., the sheriffs office retired Brody. They both came to the Washington County Sheriffs office in December 2021, and started at the career center at the beginning of January this year.

Harlow described their relationship as best friends. “...we’ve been through a lot together at work and we’ve also been through a lot of personal things. So we’ve gotten to be, I’m closer to Brody than I am people, so I can tell when something’s up with him and he can tell when something’s up with me.”

Marietta School District SRO Sury

Washington Co. SRO Sury works with Marietta School District
Washington Co. SRO Sury works with Marietta School District(Alexa Griffey)

SRO Sury is working in the entire district for Marietta. this includes the High school (grades 7-12), Phillips Elementary(prek-2), Marietta Elementary school(3-6), St. Mary’s High School and Veritas Private School.

This is Sury’s third year, second full year because of COVID.

Sury said it’s important for Resource Officers to be at the school because they can help the administration as well. “The principals, they can depend on someone being there. They have a lot of questions about the criminal side of it, ‘What can I do with this child?’ I always tell them that I’m not there all the time to... get the kids into juvenile court, cite them into juvenile court. We’re there to help them, and that’s the big thing, I’m there to help them.”

SRO Sury and Deputy Harlow communicate often since many kids from Marietta City go to the Career Center. “So, if there’s a problem or if he hears something, ‘Hey somethings going on’ and I started my investigation in the city. So, it’s good that we all communicate and that’s a big thing. And we can stop stuff before it happens.”

Deputy Sheriff and SRO Matthew Martin

Washington County SRO Deputy Sheriff Martin and his K9 partner Axel
Washington County SRO Deputy Sheriff Martin and his K9 partner Axel(Alexa Griffey)

Deputy Sheriff Martin is a SRO for the Fort Frye local school district. He recently was joined by Axel, a 16 week old bernedoodle.

Martin said the main part of their job is the safety and security of the students staff and the facility. The secondary part of their position is building a positive rapport with the students and being able to be a positive influence to kids.

“Being around the students this is the foundation of our future. I think that it’s important that they know that law enforcement is here to help. I think that it’s important that they feel safe during their education. And most importantly it’s a positive side of law enforcement, unlike working in the road patrol, there’s a lot more positive interaction with the kids, than negative.”

Axel is a K9 therapy dog with the Washington Co Sheriff's Department at Fort Frye schools.
Axel is a K9 therapy dog with the Washington Co Sheriff's Department at Fort Frye schools.(Alexa Griffey)

K9 therapy dog Axel is still in obedience training. Martin reflected on having Axel with him at the schools now. “It definitely changes most aspects of my job. Everything’s a little bit different but it’s well worth it, the reward is amazing to having him in the school, he definitely is a good addition.”

Deputy and SRO Ellie Reynolds

Deputy and SRO Reynolds and her K9 partner Wednesday
Deputy and SRO Reynolds and her K9 partner Wednesday(Alexa Griffey)

Deputy Reynolds is the Resource Officer for the Warren local school district. She’s worked two previous years with the schools.

She recently was joined by Wednesday, a 16 week old bernedoodle. Axel and Wednesday are brother and sister. Martin and Reynolds say the two see each other almost every week and play.

Reynolds said she’s constantly in the halls interacting with kids and doing other tasks around the school. “The kids are new this year to having a dog in the school. So they’re excited to interact with her. I help out with lunch duties. This year, I facilitate a class for Washington State where high school students are getting to take a college class[es]... I do safety plans and just make sure that the building is secure.”

Deputy and SRO Reynold's 16 week old K9 Therapy dog, Wednesday, helps students at Warren Local...
Deputy and SRO Reynold's 16 week old K9 Therapy dog, Wednesday, helps students at Warren Local School District.(Alexa Griffey)

Reynolds said adding Wednesday as her K9 partner has changed some things about her daily routine at the schools. “I’ve definitely noticed that if I have to get from point a to point b in a real hurry… it’s not happening. It definitely takes twice the amount of time  to do anything if you need to transition between schools or anything like that.”

“For the most part I love watching her interact with the kids. And I can see that she brings a lot of joy to the kids and the staff at warren and it makes that their day better which makes me day easier.”