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Date of Issue: January 16, 2008

School begins for resource officer

dare-01-16.jpg
Brian Copeman of the Holmes Beach Police Department is the new resource officer at Anna Maria Elementary School. He begins work at the school this week. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Holmes Beach police officer Brian Copeman returned to the classroom last week to train for many more days to come in school.

Copeman is the new community policing officer for the Holmes Beach Police Department, tapped for the job in early December after the mayor lifted a hiring freeze to fill the vacancy created by the death last year of HBPD officer Pete Lannon.

Copeman’s new duties include serving as the resource officer at Anna Maria Elementary School, 4700 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. Copeman also will serve as a liaison for the police department to the business community and other constituencies.

The young officer began his new schedule and duties on Jan. 14, according to HBPD Chief Jay Romine.

Last week, Copeman attended a training class in Orlando. At the end of the month, he is scheduled to go to Miami for a required 80-hour training program for teaching DARE — Drug Abuse Resistance Education. He will then be qualified to teach at the Island grade school.

AME principal Tom Levengood, anxious to resume the drug education program, introduced Copeman to school staff and some students who returned last week from winter break.

Levengood said he planned additional introductions this week, bringing Copeman to the classrooms of students in the first-, second- and third-grades.

Copeman joined the Holmes Beach Police Department in April 2005 after working for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. Most recently, he worked on the department’s daytime patrol, mostly visible to Island motorists in a HBPD pickup truck.

HBPD created the community-policy post with federal money from the President Clinton-era COPS program that put more than 100,000 law enforcement officers on the streets and promoted a community-policing strategy in the mid-1990s.

Lannon held the community-policing job until late 2006, when he was diagnosed with cancer. He died in June 2007, a loss observed Islandwide, but especially at AME, where students knew and respected Lannon.

When the 2007-08 school year began in September, AME remained without a resource officer. Concerned about state-mandated budget cuts, Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger had instituted a hiring freeze. Meanwhile, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, which provides resource officers to other local schools, also was unable to dispatch an officer for the fall.

In late November, Bohnenberger announced that he wanted to fill the vacancy and HBPD Chief Jay Romine invited officers to apply.

Copeman stepped forward.

“I’ll do the best I can,” he said of his new role.

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