October 19, 2018
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  • Corporal Jim McAdams, the school resource officer assigned to Northeast High School, has to be prepared at all times to deal with fights, bullying, drugs and other safety issues.
    Photo by Zach Sparks
    Corporal Jim McAdams, the school resource officer assigned to Northeast High School, has to be prepared at all times to deal with fights, bullying, drugs and other safety issues.
  • Corporal Jim McAdams, the school resource officer assigned to Northeast High School, has to be prepared at all times to deal with fights, bullying, drugs and other safety issues.
    Photo by Zach Sparks
    Corporal Jim McAdams, the school resource officer assigned to Northeast High School, has to be prepared at all times to deal with fights, bullying, drugs and other safety issues.
  • Corporal Jim McAdams, the school resource officer assigned to Northeast High School, has to be prepared at all times to deal with fights, bullying, drugs and other safety issues.
    Photos by Zach Sparks
    Corporal Jim McAdams, the school resource officer assigned to Northeast High School, has to be prepared at all times to deal with fights, bullying, drugs and other safety issues.
  • Corporal Fred Titus is not just a police officer at Chesapeake High School but also a mentor to students.
    Photo Provided
    Corporal Fred Titus is not just a police officer at Chesapeake High School but also a mentor to students.

Pasadena School Resource Officers Keep Students Safe

Zach Sparks
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View Bio
September 18, 2018

Corporal Jim McAdams was about to watch a gunfight on an episode of “The Walking Dead” on November 5, 2017, when he got a call about a real shooting threat at his assigned school, Northeast.

Working with other officers, McAdams learned that the threat — a Snapchat photo with the caption “Shooting up Northeast tomorrow” — was meant as a joke and that the juvenile who made the comment did not pose a danger to the school.

That incident showcased how important school resource officers (SROs) are and how they must be prepared for any scenario.

The School Resource Unit was started in 2007, although some officers predate that unit. The Anne Arundel County Police Department currently deploys 29 SROs to schools, one for every high school and all but two middle schools, and also staffs two sergeants and a lieutenant.

McAdams is the second-longest-tenured SRO in Anne Arundel County after Southern High School’s Jon Carrier. The Northeast SRO spent six years on patrol before earning his first SRO job at Bates Middle School during the 2002-2003 school year. Northeast is his fifth school, and he explained that the most important part of his job is interacting with students.

“I have kids who come to me with family problems, kids who come to me because they’re feeling a certain way mentally, kids who have relationship problems,” McAdams said. “You see everything here that you see on a patrol but in a smaller setting. The difference is that if I do something for a student here, I see the outcome, and you don’t always see the outcome when you’re on patrol.”

At Chesapeake High School, Corporal Fred Titus had perhaps the most challenging year of any Anne Arundel County SRO in 2017-2018.

“Last year in particular, we had incidents of racism at the school,” Titus said. “It started with a false situation where someone created a Facebook account to make it look like they were the target of racism.”

That incident set off a chain of race-related attacks: slurs written on mousepads and in the boys’ bathroom, a pickup truck brandishing a Confederate flag and a noose.

The School Resource Unit dispatched an extra officer, Antoine Wekpe, so that the school had both a white and a black SRO who could relate to students.

“It caused an uneasy tension that we never had before,” Titus said of the racism. “We had so many copycats. We’re not perfect, but we weeded out most of the bigger problems, and this year has been much better,” he added.

While those threats at Northeast and Chesapeake were publicized, SROs deal with many problems that don’t make the papers: kids suffering from depression or using drugs.

“There’s a lot of vaping going on,” Titus said. “We try to find out what they’re putting in these vape pens, whether it’s hash oil or whatever.”

Before becoming an SRO, Titus spent eight years as a Maryland state trooper and 10 years as a field supervisor for Animal Control. After about 12 years at Chesapeake, he’s learned that every day can bring a new surprise, from a fight during lunch to a fox leaping across cars in the parking lot.

SROs also have to be ready for the unthinkable. There were 23 school shootings nationwide, including two in Maryland, from January 2018 to May 2018.

According to Titus, SROs often discuss the layout of their buildings to determine ways in and out, and they identify how they will lock classrooms and get out of rooms quickly in the event of an active shooter situation. Some schools, he said, have ballistic shields to deflect bullets.

“Many years ago when I became an SRO, this was before Columbine, everyone was trained to wait for a team,” he said. “Now, our unit goes actively toward the threat. Anybody who is not going to that threat, in our view, should not be in our unit. Sitting back is going to get people killed.”

Whether it’s violence, drugs, or mental health, McAdams and Titus both said that tips from students and parents account for many of their leads. But just as important is having a presence — not just checking bathrooms, but making sure students know the officers are accessible.

“Building relationships with kids is the most important part of the job,” said McAdams, who keeps his office stocked with water and snacks for students. “I’m out in the hallway during every class change.”

While McAdams is an established presence at Northeast and Titus at Chesapeake, Chesapeake Bay Middle has a new resource this year with officer Wekpe and George Fox has Corporal Buzz Cornwell.

The SROs are an important part of the community and they take pride in their work. Community members can contact them by calling their respective schools. Numbers are listed at www.aacps.org.

“This is my school, these are my kids,” said McAdams, who lives in Pasadena and who had a daughter graduate from Northeast last year. “We’re all pretty invested in our schools and in our communities.”


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