Eastern Hancock schools will have a full-time resource officer on campus

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EASTERN HANCOCK — Officials with Eastern Hancock schools made the decision recently to hire a full-time school resource officer (SRO). The officer will be in place for the 2022-23 school year.

The district teamed up with officials from the Shirley Police Department and hired one of their reserves officer, Zachary Fuhrman. Fuhrman, 36, Indianapolis, has been working as a reserve with the SPD and also on a part-time basis with the school district, but will now be the full-time SRO. An official SRO is a sworn law enforcement officer who is responsible for safety and crime prevention in schools, a position Fuhrman said he’s looking forward to taking.

“It’s a perfect fit for me,” Fuhrman said. “I’ve just had such a blast working with everyone out there because it’s a smaller, tight-nit community, and I love the idea of having K through 12 in one building so you can watch the kids grow throughout the years.”

District officials say they felt they needed to invest more in school safety and selected Fuhrman as their full-time SRO so he can help with safety measures and be present every day of the school year.

“In the past it’s been a hodgepodge of fantastic people filling the position depending on what their days off from other departments were, but we need someone full time,” Eastern Hancock Superintendent Dr. George Philhower said.

Eastern High School principal Adam Barton agrees.

“Zach has been a great addition, and he is excited to join us in the fall,” Barton said. “It is a huge advantage for everyone involved to have a consistent presence in our schools each day, and Zach works really well with our kids and has already created some great relationships with our students that will benefit everyone when he begins full time.”

With the hiring of Fuhrman full time, all county school districts now have at least one, and in most cases several full-time dedicated SRO’s in addition to other officers on their campuses making them less of a soft target for danger. When Fuhrman is unable to work at the school, he’ll make sure a qualified sub fills in.

Fuhrman path to law enforcement was a lengthy one. He spent four years in the U.S. Marine Corps right out of high school. He then went to IUPUI where he earned degrees in journalism and criminal justice. After traveling for a few years, Fuhrman said he was then hired by Purdue University where he did research and wrote a history book on the Purdue University Grand Prix, an annual go-cart race known as one of the biggest traditions on campus.

Fuhrman then made the decision to get into law enforcement and went to work for the Marion County Community Corrections program. That’s where he was when he teamed up with the SPD as a reserve officer. He is currently going through specialized training at the Indianapolis Law Enforcement Academy in order to be prepared for the full-time SRO position.

“I’m looking forward to being able to help kids make good decisions and, for me, it doesn’t get any better than that,” Fuhrman said. “When you add the safety element with all that is going on these days, I take that very seriously, and I’ll do my best to make sure no one ever gets hurt.”

The full-time presence of an SRO in addition to the other safety measures the district already uses is a must in the current troubled times throughout the United States, Philhower said. Still, he noted their staff is working hard to make school a positive place for all students and the community with the hope everyone who comes to campus is there for the right reasons.

“The more efforts we can make in that area will also have a positive impact on school safety,” Philhower said.

The district will pick up the cost for the full-time SRO at $40,000 per year, with the majority of the funding coming from a school safety grant. When Fuhrman is not working for the school, like during breaks, weekends and in the summertime, SPD Chief of Police Brian Pryor said Fuhrman will be able to work part time with them.

“That’s the plan, for him to still work for us in addition to him being assigned full time at the school,” Pryor said. “That way we can also get some extra coverage because he will be a highly certified officer.”

Pryor was the one who first sent Fuhrman to the district on a part-time basis knowing he had the right demeanor to work closely with students and staff.

“He just does really well with kids,” Pryor said. “He stops and visits with kids and pays attention, so for him to be at the school now full time, it’s a perfect fit.”

Fuhrman was working full time for MCCC and was going through training with the SPD when he met Pryor. Pryor said he knew right away Fuhrman would make a great law enforcement officer and let him learn more about it as a reserve.

“He was just one of the guys who really caught our eye,” Pryor said. “We knew he was training for real and he’s been a huge asset for us and the community.”

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