OAKWOOD – There’s a new police officer in Oakwood, but she is a familiar face to many.
Beth Damilano, who most recently was on the Danville police force for 24 years and was a Danville District 118 school resource officer for several years, became a full-time Oakwood police officer and school resource officer at the beginning of the month.
“I love kids and I’m glad I have the opportunity to continue the resource officer program in Oakwood, but it wasn’t an easy decision,” Damilano admitted.
“I will definitely miss those Danville kids. I can’t imagine life without them,” she said. “The kids at Danville High School called me ‘Cop Mom.’ I still keep in touch with former students.”
During her time as a resource officer at Danville High School and Kenneth D. Bailey Academy, Damilano said she found her true calling and love.
“It revives your love for your profession,” she said of working in the schools. “You hope you reach people and make positive changes and change the direction of their lives.
“I want them to be productive members of society and be the best they can be,” she said of the students.
Oakwood Mayor Clay Woodard recommended Damilano for the position after the Oakwood School District’s resource officer stepped down after one year to return to regular police work. Last school year was the first year Oakwood employed a school resource officer.
“Clay was excited to continue the program,” Damilano said. “It’s a true resource program where you’re a resource for the schools and the community and you make those relationships.”
In addition to being Oakwood’s school resource officer, Damilano joined part-time police Chief Derek Weston and full-time police officer Josh Bennett on Aug. 1 as a full-time police officer with the Oakwood Police Department.
The Village of Oakwood has an agreement with the Oakwood School District to pay Damilano’s salary during the three months the district is on summer break. The school district will pay her salary the remaining nine months of the year, according to Woodard.
“We’re adding a full-time police officer that keeps children safe and opens communication with kids in our community,” Woodard said of hiring Damilano.
“What makes her a greater asset is that she’s a mother,” he said, referring to her two sons.
“We’re fortunate to have her on our department and look forward to having a great relationship for a long time,” Woodard said.
Oakwood’s new Superintendent Larry Maynard said having a resource officer in the schools is “essential.”
“To have a resource officer was a progressive move on the part of (former superintendent) Gary Lewis and the school board last year,” he said. “The safety of the students is our No. 1 priority.”
Damilano will be mobile and spend time in all of Oakwood’s three schools during the school year, which starts Monday.
“We’re fortunate and blessed to have Beth,” Maynard said. “She will provide the resources to support our kids and the issues they face. She will be great with the kids, great with our staff and great with our families.”
Maynard added that Damilano’s presence in the schools should put staff and students’ families at ease.
“The world we live in today is different, and we hope to relieve some of the anxiety that’s unfortunately in our culture,” he said. “I’m hoping this will be the start of a long-term relationship with Beth in our schools.”
Damilano said she is eager for school to start next week.
“We’re here to keep the kids safe and the staff and the community,” she said of her role as a resource officer. “Being here, it builds that relationship, and I hope that kids are comfortable enough to tell me things.
“When you genuinely care, you gain their trust,” she added. “You have to have the follow-through to get them to trust you.
“I have a big heart for kids, and this (job) marries my love of kids and education,” she said.
Damilano credits her late father, David Curry, who was a District 118 administrator and special programs coordinator that led to the district’s first alternative education program, for her desire to help children and teens.
“My dad believed kids should have a second chance at education,” she said. “Sometimes they make a bad choice, but there’s still time to fix it.
“Everyone has their niche, and this is mine — the schools and the kids,” she said. “I hope my dad is looking down happily that I’m doing this.”
A Safety Fair is set for 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 14, at Oakwood Park. Car seat safety checks will be conducted. Oakwood police officer Beth Damilano as well as representatives from Oakwood Ambulance and Oakwood Fire also will be on hand during the event.