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Tallmadge -- When students return to the classroom next week, a police officer will join the teachers and principals ready to extend the welcome mat. Dave Quillen has been a patrol officer with the Tallmadge Police Department for 10 years this month; he usually works the midnight shift. However, he was recently named the first School Resource Officer the Tallmadge City School District has ever had.
"I am so excited to take this spot," Quillen says. Quillen's been involved with the Safety School program for six years. Safety School is offered to Tallmadge residents about to enter kindergarten, addressing such topics as bus, gun and stranger safety.
A resident of Mogadore, Quillen and his wife have two children, a 9-year-old and a soon-to-be 6-year-old.
"I enjoy working with young people -- it's something I've always been very much involved with," Quillen says. He has about 19 years experience volunteering with the Summit County Community Health Center's drug prevention programs. Quillen and his wife also help lead their church's youth group for junior high and high school-age youngsters. He's run the police department's Explorer program, for youths ages 14 to 20 with an interest in law enforcement, for several years. Quillen is among a few officers in the state who are certified drug recognition experts. That means they're trained to recognize impairment in drivers under the influence of drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol, a growing problem.
"The idea behind the resource officer is to build relationships," Quillen says. "And anytime we as a police department can strengthen relationships and build camaraderie and trust with our youth, then that's just going to pay dividends later.
I'm not a hall monitor -- I'll be there to build relationships."
Quillen will attend training offered by the Ohio School Resource Officers Association in Columbus this week. Noting his dad was a youth officer in Mogadore for a number of years before he became police chief, Quillen says, "I've got a good role model in him."
The plan is for Quillen to have a presence in all the Tallmadge public schools, although he says the specifics haven't been determined yet. "I'm sure there will be a focus on the middle school and high school just because they're older kids, but I absolutely will also be in Dunbar and Munroe. I will be all over."
The idea for adding the position arose during a conversation between Mayor Dave Kline and Police Chief Ron Williams. When Williams inquired, he said Tallmadge City Schools Superintendent Jeff Ferguson indicated his interest and support. Tallmadge has never had a school resource officer; the police chief says officers now visit the schools during their normal course of duty.
"Officer Quillen has a dynamic personality and has some great ideas about the SRO program," according to the police chief.
"I'm very excited about this partnership with the city," the superintendent told members of the Board of Education last month. Ferguson said he believes the position will "support student safety, promote relationships between local law enforcement officers and our students in a positive way and help kids make good choices."
The position will be funded by the city. Quillen's current annual base salary is $67,308.80, according to the city's finance director.
"I'm all in when it comes to kids," Quillen says, "so I can't wait for the first day of school."
Twitter: @ EllinWalsh_RPC