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Grant County Middle School has two new faces roaming the halls this year.
One has been working with students for almost two decades and the other follows his nose, but the team is enjoying their new assignment.
Robert Morgan is the full-time School Resource Office at GCMS. He is a deputy with the Grant County Sheriff’s Department. His partner, Toro, is a canine officer.
Morgan replaced Frank Merritt, who worked as the school’s resource officer on a part-time basis but retired last year.
Morgan began his law enforcement career in 1988 with the Stueben County Sheriff’s Office in Indiana. He moved from there to the Bluffton, Ind. police department until he moved to Grant County in 2010 and started working for the GCSO.
He’s worked as a road deputy but much of his time was spent teaching DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), a program he hopes to bring to GCMS.
“I’ve always had a good relationship with kids,” Morgan said. “I did a lot of drug awareness programs and used my canine partner in school searches. When this job became available it was a good fit for me.”
The partnership between the sheriff and Grant County Schools has been ongoing since ? when a SRO was placed at Grant County High School. GCMS was assigned an officer in ?.
The school district pays the county $75,000 total for two school resource officers – one at GCMS and one at GCHS.
“Having a strong partnership with the school district works well for both of us,” said Grant County Sheriff Chuck Dills. “I’d personally like to have a resource officer in every school, but don’t have the budget to do it.”
Dills said his hope with adding an officer at GCMS is to be able to work with younger students to teach them the danger of drugs.
“We want to be proactive rather than reactive and the middle school age is when a lot of them are first introduced to illegal drugs,” Dills said.
Toro is an added bonus because Morgan said he costs the Grant County taxpayers nothing since he’s owned by Morgan and Melissa Newman, a special deputy with the GCSO. Morgan said he and Newman lease Toro’s services to the community at no cost.
“Everything Toro does is a benefit to the county,” Morgan said. Toro has assisted with drug searches in the community and he’s an expert at finding things such as keys.
Morgan said once when he was making an arrest in an assault case, the perpetrator threw the victims keys into tall weeds.
“He laughed and said good luck finding them,” Morgan said.
Toro didn’t need luck but used his nose and went right to the set of keys.
“That guy really didn’t know what to say,” Morgan said.
Morgan said he wants the students at GCMS to be comfortable seeing him around the building.
“Kids are scared of police because most of the time when they’ve had interaction with the police it’s been a bad situation, but I want them to not be afraid and see me as someone they can talk to,” Morgan said.
Morgan spends most mornings greeting the students when they arrive at school. He walks the halls numerous times during the day. He even sits with the students in the cafeteria.
“I’m a person who will be here to help them if I can,” he said. “I want them to know they’re safe.”
Morgan’s easy going nature is paying off as he said a student came to him last week and told him about a situation.
“That’s what I want the students to be able to do and I think establishing relationships is the way to make it happen,” he said.
His presence has been welcomed.
Recently one morning he found a note that read, “Glad you’re here!” taped to his desk.
It doesn’t hurt that his sidekick is furry and popular with the kids.
“When I walk the halls, the kids all wave at Toro,” Morgan said. “He’s definitely the popular one.”