Some Butler County police officers change roles during coronavirus shutdown

The coronavirus pandemic has shut down schools and dwindled court dockets creating new roles for some law enforcement officers.

Middletown’s three school resource officers typically would be patrolling the hallways until students went on summer break. But with no school, they’re back in cruisers.

“It is a blessing to have extra bodies here,” said Middletown Police Chief David Birk.

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The chief has assigned a couple of officers to field calls at the police department.

“They are trying to stream as many calls as they can that come through for reports that can be handled over the phone. They can screen them and handle a lot of calls from the desk instead of sending an officer. Helps us reduce the call volume for my patrol officers and increase safety of our officers,” Birk said, adding the practice is just during the quarantine.

Calls like prior thefts and phone harassment can be handled by the officers at the office.

“We want to make sure officers are going out on calls that are felony cases and people are in danger,” Birk said.

Hamilton police school resource officers and a portion of court security staff for Hamilton Municipal Court have been reassigned to supplement front line patrol operations, according to Chief Craig Bucheit.

“The addition of SROs and court security personnel has helped fill previously existing vacancies due to retirement and injuries,” he said. “These additional personnel also help offset delays in the hiring process such as the temporary closure of local police academies and the cancellation of entry level testing location sites.”

Butler County Sheriff’s deputies assigned as school resource officers are paid by the district and many are part time or retired officers, said Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer. He added, depending on the school district, some are still on the job doing other duties even with school not in session.

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“We have reassigned some court security and transport services deputies because there has been a large reduction in court dockets,” Dwyer said.

Deputies are responsible for transport of jail inmates to court hearings in common pleas and the three area courts. And a staff of deputies oversee security in the court wing of Government Services Center.

“They are helping in the jail and have been assigned to different divisions. We have projects that sometimes fall behind, like data input and upkeep, so we have assigned them to get caught up,” Dwyer said.

He said having the additional personnel has allowed some employees to take time off the care for family members or rotate vacation schedules. But Dwyer predicts everyone will be busy once the stay at home order is lifted.

“It is all going to come roaring back in spades,” Dwyer said.

In Liberty Twp., nine school sheriff’s school resource officers assigned to the Lakota school district are still on the job.

They are helping out with the food distribution as well as security reviews, said Betsy Fuller, district spokeswoman.

“Our child nutrition department is running the meal program and our school resource officers from the Butler County Sheriff’s Office have jumped on board to help,” she said. “They assist in the distribution of meals at our 11 locations and have also been known to help package the breakfasts and lunches we provide. Our school resource officers are valuable members of our staff who build relationships with our students. They are not only helping with the delivery of the meals, but are also able to use this as an opportunity to say hello to students from the schools they serve. When they are not helping out with our meal program they are reviewing our security plans and protocols, as well as doing home checks for students when needed.”

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