Since 1981, there have been just three Jamestown Police Department officers who have specialized in working with schools in the community. The longest serving of those officers, Capt. John Gletne, is planning on retiring this fall after 42 years with the department.

"The most memorable part of my career is working in the schools," Gletne said. "I learned lifelong skills of communication and a sense of organization there."

Gletne took a position as a patrolman with the Jamestown Police Department in 1978 after working for the Carrington Police Department. In 1981 he became the JPD juvenile officer.

"I developed and presented community policing and prevention programs," he said.

Some of those programs included the Child Find Fingerprint program, "Just Say No" to drugs, the Minnesota Vikings crime prevention trading cards and bicycle rodeos.

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Gletne said he had worked on many other programs aimed at the youth in schools and adults in the community over the years and even helped bring McGruff the Crime Dog to the department.

"Technology and police methods have both changed so much since I started," Gletne said, referring to his experiences in 42 years with the JPD. "The training the officers go through and the importance of training has also changed. The professionalism is at a much higher level now."

The programs offered by the JPD in the schools changed in 2008 when the School Resource Officer program began with Lt. Nick Hardy.

Hardy said the way police officers interacted with students at schools changed with the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.

"We implemented new safety procedures at the schools including locking all doors and adding more cameras," he said.

Hardy already had a background of working with young people after starting and teaching in the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program.

The JPD promoted Hardy to detective in 2014 and Andrew Staska, a sergeant with the department, became the school resource officer; he has held the position ever since.

"I was able to be a police officer," he said, referring to the position of school resource officer. "I could connect with people and educate others. I really did become an educator in many ways."

Being the face of the Jamestown Police Department at the schools has a lasting effect on the students, said Scott Edinger, Jamestown chief of police.

"The position lets the kids meet a real police officer and get to know them," he said. "It lets them know the officers are human beings. They can take that into adulthood."

And they fill a great need at the school, according to Adam Gehlhar, principal of Jamestown High School.

"Anybody who had a chance to work with these individuals knows they are vital to the (school's) relationship with the community," he said. "They provide a deterrence, they educate the students, they have a chance to sit down and talk about what the laws are. It is an awesome thing to have as a resource."

Staska said the educational aspect of the school resource officer position works with many different grade levels of students.

"I stop in classrooms just to visit with the students and teachers," he said. "I walk the hallways with students just to talk and ensure they feel safe."

Edinger said normally, 75% of the funding for the school resource officer position comes from Jamestown Public Schools. The officer works within the school system when school is in session and has other assigned duties with the JPD during the rest of the year.

This year, due to staffing shortages at the JPD and the coronavirus pandemic which closed schools to students in March, most of Staska's time has been spent with the JPD.

Gletne's retirement this fall will end a long and varied career with the JPD. During his 42 years with the department, he has been an airplane pilot for the drug task force, interim chief of the Jamestown Police Department and is currently captain of detectives for the department.

"I came out of college and anticipated this was the career choice I wanted," he said. "There are a lot of positive things in this community."

Edinger said the JPD is currently attempting to hire two officers to fill one vacant position and ultimately Gletne's spot on the roaster. He hopes to have the school resource officer back in the schools by the beginning of the second semester of the upcoming school year.