We were excited to join Corporal John Mehl, and his TRE family, as the Mental Health Awareness Committee presented him with the “Outstanding Community Advocate Award”.

Cpl. Mehl serves as the School Resource Officer at High School East, and was recognized for his dedication to creating impactful relationships with the staff and students from the special education programs.

He was nominated by his friend and colleague, Colleen O’Donnell. Below is the speech she gave to introduce Cpl. Mehl.

I would like to take a moment of your time this evening to touch on a few of the great things that Corporal John Mehl is doing at Toms River High School East where he is our assigned School Resource Officer. At High School East, we have approximately 90 students spread across 8 self-contained classrooms within our special education department. Many of the students have significant needs and require a higher level of support.

Since the beginning of his time at High School East, John has made it a priority to create relationships with the staff and students from our special education programs. From day one, he has trailed the heels of some of the best de-escalators to perfect his own skill set. Officer John has attended Handle with Care crisis intervention trainings on his own time to ensure he is interacting with the population in the most dignified way. Since his connections have become so strong, he is often now the point communicator when working students through crisis situations. He has learned tips and tricks for each of our students who may require intervention that really allow him to provide individualized de-escalation strategies. When Officer John is not involved with or even leading our crisis de-escalation team, he can be found hanging out in the classrooms sitting alongside the adolescents or young adults asking about their work, giving fist bumps and high fives, cracking jokes or DJing in spontaneous dance parties.

Through these small and kind gestures, many of our students have increased tolerance of police officers. Families have approached Officer John to thank him, as their child is no longer intimidated by police officers. Most recently, Officer John coordinated a first responder interaction event with several local agencies. This provided our students exposure to additional uniformed first responders in a safe and familiar setting. For families of the Toms River community and the population of students in which we serve, experiencing events like this could be life changing and even life saving. I have been at High School East for over ten years. Although all the school resource officers have been great, Officer John Mehl stands at the top of the list for involvement with our most vulnerable population in the Toms River Community. He goes well beyond serving and protecting. He spends his days at High School East respecting and connecting.

Thank you, Officer Mehl for all the work you’ve done with our students thus far.

Written by: Colleen O’Donnell, District Behavior Analyst