Madison Consolidated Schools have added another veteran law enforcement officer to its school security team — one whose roots extend back to the implementation of the school resource officer program — with the hiring of former Jefferson County Sheriff John Wallace.

Wallace, who served as sheriff from 2011 to 2018, and remained with the department as chief deputy until recently, helped implement the school resources officer program at Madison in the spring of 2014. He will now join the program’s original officer Jacob McVey and Tim Armstrong to form a three-man unit that will serve school buildings and students throughout the Madison school system.

“We are absolutely thrilled with this addition to our school security team,” said Madison Superintendent Jeff Studebaker. “SRO Wallace brings an exceptional amount of professional experience and long-term community relationships to our district. His hiring expands our ever-growing team of law enforcement professionals charged with keeping our students, staff, campuses and visitors safe on a daily basis.”

Wallace began his career in law enforcement in 1986 as a patrolman for Madison Police Department. He later served as a crime scene investigator and bike patrol officer and went on to serve as a detective/captain from 1999 to 2007 until he was appointed chief of police in 2007.

As police chief Wallace led the Madison department until 2010 when he ran for and was elected county sheriff. He then served the maximum two terms as sheriff.

During Wallace’s tenure at Madison, he actively worked with federal and state agencies to impact illegal drug trade in the community and advocated for child victims of sexual crimes. As police chief, he re-implemented the city’s K-9 program, helped start the department’s first Emergency Response Team, and refocused on community policing through expanded bike patrols and neighborhood block watch programs.

It is that level of community outreach that has school officials excited about Wallace’s potential for reaching out to students and their families as SRO.

“I am very excited to join SROs McVey and Armstrong as part of the Madison security team,” Wallace said. “I have worked closely with the schools in my previous positions and see the great work they do each day with students and for our community. I look forward to building relationships with students and families as we begin school.”

According to Ashley Schutte, communications coordinator for Madison schools, it’s more than just putting more boots on the ground to deter or respond to emergency situations. She said the SROs are actively involved in the schools, developing relationships with students and parents and educating students on issues of concern to their age group.

Schutte said SROs provide lessons outside of the expertise of other faculty members such as school safety, drug and alcohol awareness and, when age appropriate, how to be responsible digital and cyber users. In the event of a school threat or emergency, the SROs are also on hand to immediately lockdown the campus and respond appropriately to whatever situation exists whether that’s physical threat or threatening weather.

Schutte said the plan is to have all three SROs spend time in each of the school buildings so that they can become familiar with each campus and develop a rapport with students and faculty at each site. Having the SROs get to know students and students to know and trust the SROs is key to the program working at its optimum.

“Once they get to know students, they maybe can see when someone is struggling or concerned, or maybe a student that trusts them will share concerns about a student who needs help or provide an anonymous tip,” Schutte said.

Wallace is a former narcotics investigations trainer who implemented mental health, narcotics, GED and faith-based programs in the Jefferson County Jail. Under his tenure, Jefferson County led Indiana (per capita) in drug-related arrests. He said the goal is to put kids on the right path when they are young so you don’t have to rehabilitate them later. “One of the things I’ve really been thinking a lot about is what can we do now to curb some of the problems we have later on,” Wallace said. “I’m excited to end my career where I can make a positive impact on these younger kids.”

Southwestern will have one SRO serving its district through Dec. 31 with a new two-year contract in the works for 2020-2022.

Southwestern Superintendent Jeff Bates said Southwestern’s more compact campus means one officer can serve all grade levels with minimal travel time between buildings. Also, rather than having one officer dedicated as SRO, the task will most likely be shared by Hanover Police Chief Josh Taylor and Captain Shane Caldwell.

“We’ve had one SRO in the past and shared among our buildings,” Bates said. “He never spends the entire day in just one building and our buildings are so close that sharing is not an issue.”

Bates said like Madison Southwestern relies on its SRO for more than just security

“They provide security but they’re also in the classrooms teaching about drunken driving, drug abuse and child abuse,” Bates said. “We have a very good relationship with our local police and they are in our buildings a lot anyway so we’re very comfortable with anybody they give us.”

Bates said having the officers interact with students daily lets them maybe see law enforcement in a different light than what they might perceive without that personal interaction.

“Some kids might look at law enforcement as something negative but by building positive relationships with the SROs they can see police differently. They do a lot of good.”