Stevensville Police Officer Kevin Oberhofer began his new job as Stevensville School District's school resource officer Monday.
The school has been without a resource officer for several months during the hiring process and training.
“I’m just trying to break the ice and get to know folks,” Oberhofer said. “It is a whirlwind of connecting names and faces. I think it is going to be like that for a while.”
The mission of a SRO is to make the school secure and safe and to build relationships with staff and students.
“I’m here to complement education any way I can,” Oberhofer said. “I want to make teachers and students feel safe and secure, so they can focus on education.”
Oberhofer is a graduate of the University of Montana. He served with the Helena Police Department from 1991 to 1999 helping with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program and was a warrant officer.
“I did a lot of things on top of being a patrol officer,” he said.
Oberhofer was born in Miles City, grew up in Chicago — returning to Montana often to visit relatives — and met his wife of 24 years in Helena. He did other work in the defense industry and with federal law enforcement but moved back to Montana to be closer to relatives.
He served in the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Department as a 911 dispatcher for three years.
“That was a great stepping stone to come in to this,” Oberhofer said. “I know all the deputies, I know all the dispatchers well and they are on the other end of this radio if something happens.”
Becoming a police officer again wasn’t on Oberhofer’s plan but when he saw the need in the Stevensville Police Department he stepped up.
“James [Police Chief James Marble] needed help and is a great guy,” he said. “We live in Stevensville and it seems like a natural thing to do. I want to help make Ravalli County a place where people want to live.”
The addition of Oberhofer brings the total of law enforcement officers for Stevensville up to two.
Police Chief James Marble said he will fill the third police officer position once Oberhofer is fully trained.
“I am optimistic moving forward that we will be able to fully staff the police department and be able to provide adequately for the citizens of Stevensville,” Marble said. “I am working with the mayor’s office and the town council to consider options for funding the department to get our personnel levels where they should be. Hiring Kevin is a step toward that goal.”
With the SRO program jointly funded by the town and the school, Oberhofer will operate on a daily basis out of the school facilities, be present in the schools, patrol the school traffic zones and will respond as needed to city calls.
Superintendent Bob Moore said he is pleased that the open position has been filled.
“The school resource officer position provides for a more safe and secure environment for the entire school community,” Moore said. “As a district, we want to provide a safe environment and instill a positive relationship between our students, staff and the law enforcement community.”
Stevensville Schools Board Member Sarah Armijo said she looks forward to Officer Oberhofer providing additional safety and developing positive relationships with staff and students.
“Stevensville School District is fortunate to have this program continue as it benefits the community as a whole,” Armijo said.
Oberhofer said there is a steep learning curve on his new job – names to learn, different procedures, car and phone.
“James is a great guy and people are supportive here,” he said. “To me it is a win-win.”