The Harford County Sheriff’s Office has selected 14 deputies who will serve as school resource officers in all middle and high schools in the jurisdiction, starting in December.
The names of the school resource officers were released in an announcement posted on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page Tuesday night. The news comes ahead of schedule, as the agency and county government planned to have an SRO in all schools by January, according to the announcement.
“The deputies have been identified and received their assignments,” the announcement said. “Over the next two weeks, the new SROs will be in training and you should start to see them in their new schools in early December.”
Adding SROs to the middle schools will build on successes the Sheriff’s Office has already seen, Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler said.
“Over the past 20 years, we have witnessed the benefits of having deputies assigned to high schools. Those deputies are able to work directly with the students, build positive relationships, offering not only an authority figure, but also a role model,” Gahler said. “We know that during adolescence, students are more susceptible to poor life choices and the SRO is a critical member of the school community to help our young people in their journey to adulthood.”
It also provides another layer of safety and security for Harford students, he said.
“I sincerely wish that we were at a different point in time where these measures were not necessary, but we cannot ignore the fact that schools have become a target for violence,” Gahler said. “It is because of that urgency, and the commitment to safety of our students, that I am proud to announce we were able to meet our goal early and have the SROs in the schools ahead of schedule.”
The Sheriff’s Office plans to highlight two officers each week “so you can have a chance to get to know them all!”
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman allocated $1.2 million in his fiscal 2019 budget for the Sheriff’s Office to expand its SRO corps so an officer could be placed in each middle and high school in the agency’s jurisdiction. Municipal police departments in Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace assign officers to schools within those communities’ boundaries.
Glassman announced the allocation in April during a joint press conference with Gahler and then-HCPS Superintendent Barbara Canavan, saying the money would also cover security upgrades at schools.
At the time of the announcement, the Sheriff’s Office had deputies assigned to high schools as well as Edgewood Middle and Magnolia Middle schools.
Members of the Harford County community identified expanding the number of SROs as a key way to improve school safety in the wake of deadly school shootings earlier this year, in Parkland, Fla., and at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County.
The new Harford SROs named Tuesday are: Senior Deputy Ralph Ciambruschini, alternative education program at the Center for Educational Opportunity, Aberdeen; DFC Andrew Stolarz, C. Milton Wright High; Senior Deputy Austin Steg, Edgewood High; DFC Christopher Henize, Edgewood Middle; Senior Deputy Brian Miller, Fallston High; Senior Deputy Matthew Harrell, Fallston Middle; DFC David Feeney, Harford Technical High; Senior Deputy Khalid Mitchell, Joppatowne High; DFC Jolene Niles, Magnolia Middle; Senior Deputy Eric Blottenberger, North Harford High; Senior Deputy Joseph Dugan, North Harford Middle; Senior Deputy Robert Kovacs, Patterson Mill High; DFC Arnold Pruett, Patterson Mill Middle; and Senior Deputy Craig Thompson, Southampton Middle.
Supervisors are Sgt. Brian O’Neill, Cpl. Stavros Kalambihis and Cpl. Brett Smoot.