Tying shoes, tightening bonds

How School Resource Officers impact kids in the Mantua district

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Courtesy of Mantua Township School District
Superintendent Christine Trampe poses with School Resource Officer Dave Smith after she surprised him with gifts as a thank you for his service to the Mantua district.

The Mantua Township School District recently celebrated School Resource Officer Day, a show of appreciation for the four officers who help protect students in the district’s three schools.

The school district praised the work of the officers on a Facebook post.

“Thank you for keeping us safe and for building strong relationships with our students, staff and community,” the post read.

The four officers are all retirees from neighboring police departments: Ed Wiley of Haddonfield, Ed Kiermeier of Deptford, Dave Smith of Salem City and Marie Frey of Logan Township.

“The officers in Mantua schools are all Special Law Enforcement Officer Class III (SLEO III) police,” explained Mantua Police Chief Darren White. “This means that they have all retired in good standing within three years of their appointment date from a full-time police position within a New Jersey municipality. 

“While working in their school-security function, they have the same authority as regular, full-time police officers and are under the authority of the Mantua chief of police,” he added.

“They are all well-respected and highly qualified officers who we expect will continue to improve on our excellent interactions with the children, parents and employees at all our schools.”

On top of police training, each SRO officer undergoes a mandatory 40 hours of instruction within the first year after their department hiring. When a threat presents itself, they are required to both head toward and address it immediately, according to White. The SROs also help with and provide feedback on required school drills.

White also praised the officers’ work and described how their commitment has nurtured a valuable relationship between the police department and school district.

“Our SLEO III’s close relationship with the schools, combined with the things listed above, and a genuine desire to keep the kids safe, has cultivated a great synergistic effort that continues to improve Mantua’s school security to the highest levels possible,” he noted.

The school district recently bid farewell to SRO Jim Fellon, who left in December.

“Eight years ago, officer Jim Fellon became Mantua Township School District’s School Resource Officer,” the district noted on Facebook. “Over those years, he has assisted so many of our students, staff, and families. He has tied shoes, read books, given high fives, held hands, made jokes, wiped tears and made people feel safe.

“It is bittersweet to share that officer Fellon will be moving on to his next chapter at the end of this month,” the post added. “Please be sure to wish him well if you see him around the schools over the next few weeks.

“We are so grateful for his years of dedication and commitment to our district and community.”

The police department, according to White, is always looking to improve an SRO officer’s role.

“Be assured that all Mantua police officers are well trained in dealing with school threats,” he pointed out. “The schools themselves also have very well-trained employees and they are hardened against potential threats. 

“We are all also constantly looking for ways to improve so that we can continue providing the highest level of service into the future.”

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