First appeared in Royal News
Throughout the years of elementary school, middle school, and high school, students have seen many faces. They have seen many friends, many teachers, and many mentors. But one face that they see more often than they realize is Officer Jon Karl. From conducting Safety Town to serving as the high school’s mentor on safety and firearms, he has been with us from the beginning of a lot of our journeys. But in July, he will finish his journey as the North Royalton High School’s police officer. Taking over for his position at the high school is none other than Officer Lexie Bell.
Ever since his childhood, Officer Karl was surrounded by police officers. “My father was a police officer, “ he said. “I grew up around police officers, so I was familiar with, you know, many of the people that were in the profession.” At first, Officer Karl went to the University of Dayton to study electrical engineering. After three semesters, he decided that it wasn’t his calling. “That didn’t work out, so I came home,” he said. After this, he went to Tri-C to get his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice Law Enforcement. He also attended the Private Security Academy for the state of Ohio. “I always found it interesting, different. There are a lot of opportunities to be with people, to help people, and I felt kind of silly, but when I was interviewed for the job...that’s one of the questions and I said...I want to help people.”
In 1982, Officer Karl was hired as a correction officer by the County’s Sheriff’s Office. He held that position for six years. In September of 1988, he began to work as a police officer for the city of North Royalton. From then until now, he has been working as a police officer. During this period, he has spent seven years as a SWAT operator who is “basically your SWAT cop that does all the SWAT things.” Starting in the winter of 1989 to 1990 (around six months), Officer Karl worked undercover on a narcotics investigation. He was then selected as a UN peacekeeper in Kosovo and spent a year there. “It was an active war zone, “ explained Officer Karl. “We were there under the UN and the US State Department. I had about 75 officers under my command from all over the world, and it was a very interesting experience.” Shortly after his arrival, the agency that worked with the school district wrote a grant from the US Department of Justice called Cops in Schools. And this is where we find him today.
The school has been grateful to be under Officer Karl’s careful watch for so many years but welcomes Officer Bell into the community. Officer Bell had no family history of law enforcement. “I actually have a family history of drug addiction and alcoholism, “ she explained. “I have had family members, close family members, go in and out of jail. So growing up around that...I think that pushed me to want to do the exact opposite.” She grew up in Michigan and then joined the Marine Corps. She served for two years and relocated to Hawaii. She completed her bachelor’s and masters in Criminal Justice. Afterward, she moved back to Ohio and applied to be a police officer in Cleveland. She started her career there in 2017 and moved to North Royalton in January of 2019. Officer Bell also shares the opinion of Officer Karl, saying, “I want to help people.”
Police officers often encounter very intriguing experiences from their careers. For Officer Karl the first occurred when he served as a SWAT officer, where there were “four different presidential security details,” as explained by Officer Karl. “That's just cool because there are so many moving parts. Understanding the importance of your participation is huge.”
But the biggest experience for Officer Karl was being a leading officer in Kosovo. When Officer Karl volunteered to be a peacekeeping officer in Kosovo, Slobodan Miloševic, the communist dictator of Kosovo, had begun a process of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Miloševic also started to use the national police force as his secret police force who did all the illegal crimes. Officer Karl and police officers from all over the world became the police force for the country of Kosovo. Officer Karl explains, “We actually became the police force and then we started recruiting and training the citizens to rebuild a new police organization...So it was a very interesting process.”
Although police officers have interesting encounters, they also have an equal amount, if not more, of difficult things in their career. One of the hardest things, as stated by both Officer Bell and Officer Karl, was making death notifications. “Seeing families in turmoil, seeing the devastation of people's actions and choices, that's tough because I've seen that in my personal life,” said Officer Bell. Meeting total strangers and telling them that their loved one died is a horrible thing, and it doesn’t help that it is very emotionally draining for a police officer. Officer Karl has experienced punches, kicks, screams, and he could deal with that. He said that it was just a way for people to react and that they didn’t mean to do these things. Since there are many difficult things they do and see in their careers, they have to find ways to keep themselves emotionally neutral. “You know, having a network of people to talk to usually lightens that emotional load,” stated Officer Karl. The people they encounter are in physical and emotional trauma, so Officer Karl explains that a social network really does help.
When it comes to the best part of working at NORO, Officer Karl and Officer Bell both agreed that being there for students is the best part of their jobs. “We get the opportunity to step in and it maybe help you when you guys are having a bad day or a bad time. And it's great getting to work with the kids. It's definitely different than being on the road, “ explained Officer Bell. “And you guys are silly.”
Officer Karl shared that seeing kids from Safety Town to elementary school, middle school, then high school, and all the way to commencement is very great. “Seeing the promise and the potential that all of you guys have and getting to watch you head out into the world is cool,” stated Officer Karl.
Despite his love for the job, Officer Karl affirmed that he will be spending a few weeks at a beach somewhere after his retirement. Officer Karl said, “I'm going to spend a couple of weeks on a beach somewhere, but then after that, it'll be ‘Okay want to work a little bit more?’” Officer Karl anticipates being fully involved in school safety counseling and working with different groups within that area. He will maintain his law enforcement credentials and will be answering Officer Bell’s phone calls, which “is going to be important.” Officer Bell will be staying here and will be the new police officer for North Royalton High School. We bid farewell to Officer Karl and welcome Officer Bell to North Royalton High School.