TALLMADGE — As the city’s school resource officer for the last three school years, Police Officer Dave Quillen is in a job he wanted and sought.
"When I was a road officer, I saw we had a need for getting relationships built within our schools," he said. "After talking with the [police] chief and getting this position put into place, of course I was one of the first guys to put in for it."
And now Quillen has been recognized for his efforts. The Ohio School Resource Officers Association honored him by naming him statewide school resource officer of the year for at its conference in Sandusky on June 26.
Quillen said, "I’m excited to have won it," but "I don’t do anything to get accolades."
"It’s a great accomplishment," said Police Chief Ron Williams."He’s done an outstanding job."
Williams said the city and schools, in fact are working to add a second SRO (see sidebar story).
"The idea of creating the position," said Williams, "was to improve and develop relationships with the students, the staff and the parents and he’s done a great job of that."
Eileen Kramer, OSROA membership program director, said the recognition is not just for the most recent school year, "but what they’ve done during their career as a school resource officer."
"What we look for is a commitment to the safety of the school obviously and a commitment obviously to the community," said Kramer. "Dave Quillen has excessive amounts of community and school involvement. I mean just boom, boom, boom, one after another."
Kramer said that a number of people within both the police department and school district provided written nominations for Quillen to win the award because "they thought highly of his work." She said that with more than 900 OSROA members, there is a lot of competition for the recognition.
"I can say it’s a great honor in the fact that there are many other SROs who have a lot of involvement in the schools and their community and Dave just won out because he is really dedicated," she said.
Steve Wood, school district chief operating officer, said Quillen has been invaluable.
"Officer Quillen has been a wonderful addition to the Tallmadge City School District," he said. "Not only providing our students and families and staff peace of mind having his presence in the building, but also the job he’s done in building relationships with our kids and running programs like the summer reading program. It just makes him very unique and a special addition to the district. We’re very blessed to have Officer Quillen as part of our team.
Quillen has been a member of the city’s police department since 2006, but even before becoming a police officer, he was involved in drug prevention, volunteering with the Summit County Community Health Center, and running various youth programs.
"It’s something I’ve always felt driven to do, working with our youth and trying to make an impact," he said.
As an SRO, he said he has multiple responsibilities in the city schools.
"[SROs] are there to problem solve when needed," he said, "but we’re also there to build relationships with students, build confidence with students in law enforcement, help resolve any problems that pop up and obviously, we’re there for safety and security of the students and the staff so we respond to calls of a criminal nature in the schools as well."
He is involved with groups within the schools, such as a steering committee that addresses the needs of "underprivileged" students, and he often speaks to students in classes, such as criminal justice and science, as it relates to policing. He has talked about a variety of topics, including driving under the influence and drugs.
"I’ve been in just about every type of classroom so far, even language arts class about the importance of writing proper police reports and whatnot," he said.
At times, he has even been called upon to provide transportation for students to school, such as if a child misses the bus, or the family car breaks down.
"It’s not uncommon for the principal to call and say, ‘Hey Dave, can you go pick up such and such?’" he said.
Wood said Quillen has also been very helpful in maintaining a safe environment in the schools.
"He certainly plays a very important role in our safety drills and safety training in all of our buildings," he said. "So having his presence and expertise has been invaluable."
Currently the district is in the final stages of a large school replacement project — the construction of a new elementary school, which will replace the aging Dunbar Primary School and Munroe Elementary School, and a new middle school close to each other. Wood said this will essentially create a two-campus district, one for kindergarten through eighth grades and the other for high school students. He said Quillen has helped with this as well, offering expertise in areas of visitor management and just the general layout of the schools.
"He’s been instrumental in making sure we build the safety measures into our new schools that kind of puts us at state-of-the art status and we’re thankful he’s involved in that as well," said Wood.
Quillen said that when approaching how to do his job in the schools, he thinks of his own children.
"Where my kids go to school, they don’t have a school resource officer and really, honestly, I start every day thinking if my kids had a school resource officer, how would I want him or her to address my kids," said Quillen. "So when I go to school, those are my kids and how would I address them? That’s what I try to do each day. If that means I win an award, great. But I don’t do it for any awards."
Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, email@example.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.