Lincolnview and Crestview personnel gather at the Sheriff Department with officer Mike Biberstine (right) Sheriff Tom Riggenbach (center) and officer John Gabriel (left). (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
Lincolnview and Crestview personnel gather at the Sheriff Department with officer Mike Biberstine (right) Sheriff Tom Riggenbach (center) and officer John Gabriel (left). (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – Lincolnview Local Schools and Crestview Local Schools have teamed up with the Van Wert County Sheriff’s Office to equip themselves with a full-time School Resource Officer.

Starting Monday, April 9, 2018, officer Mike Biberstine will be at Lincolnview full time while officer John Gabriel will be at Crestview full time. Prior to that agreement, both schools had been sharing Biberstine for the past year and a half. Both Biberstine and Gabriel are trained in the DARE program, which both schools utilize.

“I think it’s been a good thing for the schools, the communities, and the Sheriff’s Office – the relationship building piece that is involved and being able to do that is very valuable,” said Sheriff Tom Riggenbach. “We’re really exited that both school districts are giving us the opportunity to be there five days a week. We’re excited about moving forward and the opportunities that lay ahead.”

While safety and security is the top priority of the SRO officers, Riggenbach also said that a benefit of having officers in the school is the positive relationships they can build with teachers and students. The officers will also have duties such as patrolling the school campus area, making sure students are safe during lunch and recess, as well as attending different classroom curriculum based on what teachers may need.

“They are going to be a very active resource, just as it says, for the schools,” said Riggenbach. “I think we’re going to see a lot of good things happen because of this.”

Both Crestview and Lincolnview are paying for their individual officers which will cost between $40,000 to $50,000 for a full school year. While the officers are employed through the Sheriff’s Office, Crestview Superintendent Mike Estes said he will view the officer as part of the Crestview team.

“That’s how we’ll see officer Gabriel, as another staff member working with us in our mission to educate, protect, and serve our students,” said Estes.

During the non-school days, such as summer vacation, the officers will be assigned different duties such as SRO training, additional training, DARE projects, and other needs of the department.

Biberstine said that he is excited to be with Lincolnview full time and that one of his main concerns in the past year was being at each school half the week, leaving the schools vulnerable the other half.

“I’m excited to have us in the school full time,” said Biberstine.

“I’m excited for the opportunity and really looking forward to do what I can to work with staff and keep the school as safe as possible,” added Gabriel of his new assignment at Crestview. “That’s one of my top priorities. My number one goal is to prevent anything from happening. I look forward to the opportunity and all the challenges that come with it.”

Lincolnview superintendent Jeff Snyder said the partnership will not only provide the comfort of safety but will allow both schools to continue to better their safety practices and said it’s nice to have experts on-site.

“I want to say thanks to the Sheriff’s Department and the Commissioners who gave us an opportunity to start part time and as it progressed, and [with] the world we live in today, it came to a point where we really needed to look at the future of how we’re going to provide safety.”

Because the Sheriff’s Department will be providing the deputies, they will need to hire more personnel. Riggenbach said the department has already taken steps to maintain the number of personnel required to best serve the county. He hopes to be back at “full capacity” by early June.