GREENVILLE — Officer Jesse Osswald, of the Greenville Police Department, is getting ready to go back to school.
Osswald completed his first year as School Resource Officer (SRO) at Greenville High School last year, and he’s looking forward to heading back.
The officer said his first year at the high school was a year of “getting our feet wet” for everyone involved — himself, the school staff and the students, but as the year progressed, everyone grew more comfortable.
Osswald and his regular substitute and back-up SRO, Officer Ryan Borowske, went through a week-long SRO training session at the OPOTA (Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy) in Richfield, near Cleveland.
Borowske also acts as an SRO, maintaining a presence at the other schools in the Greenville City School District, while Osswald works full time at the high school. Borowske fills in for Osswald at the high school on any days he is out.
“I stay pretty busy at the high school,” Osswald said. “So he will pop in to the other schools, make our presence known, see if they need anything. And then if for some reason I’m absent (at the high school) he can take over.”
Osswald works at the high school Monday through Friday, stopping by the police station only to clock in and out during the school year, and it took him a little time to get into the routine at the department when summer rolled around.
Osswald said that working as an SRO is very different from working the streets as a patrol officer.
“It’s a totally different aspect of the job,” he said, less about hands-on crimefighting and more about positive interaction with youth.
As his first year went on, Osswald said the kids grew more comfortable with his presence. They voluntarily came to him to tell him about criminal or suspicious activity.
“Not at the beginning of the year, but as the year went on, some of them actually felt comfortable enough to come to my office and say, ‘hey, this is what’s going on,’” Osswald said. “There were a couple of kids who had trouble and they came to me in the beginning, and one of them came in later and said, ‘thanks for everything.”
Some came to him for advice on pursuing a career in law enforcement. Some even just stop him in the halls to chat.
“Making those connections is more what the job was about,” he said. “It was a definite adjustment period for me, to get used to that.”
Osswald said he will be returning as SRO this fall, and after that the school and the police department will decide on another contract, but he believes the program will continue.
“The administration here (at the police department), to my knowledge, has been very happy with everything, and the administration at the school has been very happy with everything,” Osswald said. “We haven’t had any complaints from either side yet.”
The officer said the biggest problem in a high school setting is probably drugs, especially prescription pills. Harassment and threats are some other issues he deals with regularly — “a lot of what you’d call, maybe, ‘drama’.” There is not a lot of outright ongoing bullying, he said, but it’s more often an issue of mutual enmity.
“I can’t say bullying doesn’t happen at all,” he said, “but it’s not very prevalent in the school.”
He spent some time in classes last year, offering presentations on such things as teen driving, drugs and similar topics. He said one thing he’s hoping for this year is that he will be spending more time in classes.
Having been “back on the streets” during the summer months, Osswald has had occasion to interact with some of the students out in public, and he believes those have been more positive for him and for them.
He did not know if his work at the school has affected other officers’ interactions with teens.
“I never really thought to ask them,” he said, “but I’m going to have to now.”
As the new school year is set to begin, Osswald said he is ready to get back to the hallways, and with the learning curve passed, he expects it to be even better than last year.
Reach the writer at 937-569-4354 or on Twitter @RachelLloydGDA