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Longtime school resource officer retires

Medford’s longest-serving school resource officer, Ernie Whiteman Sr., retired Thursday after 17 years of safeguarding students at North Medford High School and the neighboring elementary schools.

“No one has been in this position longer than Ernie,” said Medford Police Chief Tim George at Thursday’s City Council meeting.

After about 10 years as a patrol officer for the Medford Police Department, Whiteman accepted the SRO position at North Medford. He also oversaw Abraham Lincoln, Wilson and Kennedy elementary schools. 

“Originally, it was a three-year assignment,” Whiteman said. “But then I realized how important it was working with kids, and I decided to stick it out for the next 17 years.”

During his time at North, Whiteman attended to students’ personal crises, dealt with Facebook-related issues (threats, bullying, drama, etc.), oversaw the safety of students on campus, and spoke to classes about a variety of issues, including drugs and alcohol, driving, date rape, Internet safety, bullying and gang resistance.

“It was a lot of problem solving with the kids to solve issues before they became legal issues,” Whiteman said.

Besides being on campus every day interacting with students, Whiteman attended the school’s sporting events, proms and other activities, George said.

“It’s hard to measure things that don’t happen, but Ernie has really been part of creating conversations that prevent bad things from happening,” George said.

Many former and current North Medford students praised Whiteman’s positive influence, patience and guidance on the Medford police Facebook page Thursday — Whiteman’s last day on the job.

“(Whiteman) has helped me throughout my life,” wrote a former North student. “I remember when he helped me leave the gang life and help me succeed. Also, he has helped me get into the police force. I used him for a reference.”

Whiteman also spent the last year standardizing the crisis response procedures of districts countywide, bringing them into compliance with emergency operations plans developed by the U.S. Department of Education, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, FBI and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Whiteman’s crisis response plan was adopted by the Medford School District at the beginning of the school year and has since been used as a template for school districts statewide, George said.

After retiring, Whiteman plans to spend a year traveling the country with his wife in their fifth-wheel and will continue mentoring and training new SROs nationwide as part of the National Association of School Resource Officers.

Mark Patterson, an SRO formerly assigned to Hedrick Middle School, will replace Whiteman at North.

"The position evolved because of (Whiteman), his character and his input," George said. "He's been a fixture at North Medford High School, and it won't be the same without him."

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.

Ernie Whiteman, school resource officer at North Medford High, retired Wednesday after17 years at the school. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell