New school resource officer Hamlin looking to fill a need

Sean C. Morgan

Geoff Hamlin has begun serving as the Sweet Home Police Department’s new school resource officer.

Hamlin, who stepped into the position on Monday, Aug. 24, succeeds Chris Wingo, who was the SRO until 2011 when the program ended for lack of funding.

Police Chief Jeff Lynn said Wingo didn’t apply to return to the position. He is heavily involved in other activities, such as the Special Weapons and Tactics Team.

Hamlin, 32, came to Sweet Home three years ago after working at Josephine County. A patrol officer, he recently qualified as a field training officer.

“I was kind of just looking for something a little bit different,” Hamlin said. “I think it’s a good position. It’s something that’s needed.”

On patrol, officers deal with a small group of people, he said, and they don’t get the opportunity to be a role model and interact with many other youths.

Students with questions may be more willing to approach the SRO rather than making a trip to the Police Department, Hamlin said.

He worked for the Juvenile Department in Josephine County, he said, so he is comfortable around children.

“Really it’s going to be just like working with anybody, especially at the high school level,” Hamlin said. “It’s going to be different working with the younger kids.”

Growing up, his parents always told him, he was great with little kids, he said. “It’ll be a good fit.”

“We’re thrilled to death to have an SRO back in the district,” said Supt. Keith Winslow. “Kids will understand he’s a real persona and they can talk to him about anything. We’re tickled.”

“I think the essence (of the program) will be the same,” Lynn said. “There’s a lot to the program. The officer has to be somewhat embedded, not just with the high school and junior high, in the district with all the schools. Our interest is to have a bigger presence in all the schools.”

The SRO will be a link between Sweet Home police officers and the district, the largest employer in the community, with an enrollment of more than 2,000 children. He will keep an office at Sweet Home High School.

“I’m hoping they work to prevent juvenile delinquency through the close contact and positive relationships with students,” Lynn said.

Hamlin will work closely with school administrators to establish and provide a safe school environment, to be visible throughout the School District and to be a positive role model. He also will handle calls for service and work with school officials on safety plans. He will mentor and develop relationships with at-risk students.

“It’s a work in progress to figure out what we think will work for both parties,” Lynn said, and police and school officials will meet regularly to develop the program.

“Right now, we’re still developing the program,” Hamlin said, but the process will include education for teachers and students as well as parents possibly.

Last year, Officer Tim Trahan began developing the “I Love You Guys” active shooter preparation and response program in Sweet Home.

Hamlin will continue to work with that plan and provide training.

“I’m very excited about the prospect,” said SHHS Principal Ralph Brown. “When I joined my last school, we had an SRO in the beginning.”

That program ended due to a lack of funds, he said, but it helped school and police officials stay connected even after it ended.

“There were really no downsides,” Brown said.

Law enforcement in the building means they can interact with students differently, Brown said. “I’m excited he’ll have the opportunity to interact with younger students all the way up through high school. It will create good relationships. By the time the younger students enter high school, they’ll already be familiar with the SRO and see him as someone they can talk to about anything.

“Having an officer there, for the staff and some students, I think there was an added sense of safety,” Brown said.