Police Officers a Fixture Now in Area High Schools
Chances are that when you went to High School, you rarely saw a police officer. Maybe you saw an officer on career day. That’s changed completely in the last two decades, and now almost every school in Calhoun County has some sort of regular police presence.
Battle Creek City Commissioners will be asked to renew an agreement with Lakeview High School this Tuesday night, which provides for a dedicated BCPD “Liaison Officer.”
Battle Creek Police Chief Jim Blocker said the department has agreements for officers with dedicated office space in both Lakeview and Battle Creek Central High Schools. “Corporal Damon Young is the officer at Battle Creek Central, and Corporal Stephen Herbstreith is the Lakeview officer,” said Chief Blocker.
“Having an Officer in the building as a coach, mentor and friend brings significant value. This role is less about enforcement and more about serving in that capacity as a safe person to talk to, who understands adolescents, the challenges as well as any trauma associated with these critically important formative years-and the value of learning.”
Chief Blocker says they choose the school liaison officers carefully. “It benefits the officer as well as the department to ensure we have the right fit for the position. It can't just be anyone.”
The Lakeview agreement that commissioners will consider Tuesday, pays the city $90,673 for the next school year, and increases to nearly $96,000 by year three of the agreement. The officer reports directly to Lakeview School Superintendent Blake Prewitt, but is not considered a school employee.
Here are the liaison officer’s duties, as spelled out in the agreement:
1. During each day that Lakeview High School is in session the Liaison Officer shall be available for the performance of the following duties.
a) Interact with students of the assigned secondary school in an attempt to build rapport;
b) Identify students who have anti-social attitudes and who tend to disrupt the learning environment;
c) Investigate criminal activity on school property and take appropriate actions up to and including arrest.
2. The Liaison Officer shall, when requested by the School District, counsel students in the areas of drug abuse, traffic laws, child abuse, truancy, possession of weapons, and provide resource referrals to outside agencies.
3. The Liaison Officer will serve as a link between the police, school authorities, and juvenile courts to coordinate efforts to solve problem situations.
4. The Liaison Officer will attend extra-curricular school activities when requested by school officials, and when requested shall be paid at the overtime rate as set out in the City's Fee, Bond and Insurance schedule.
Chief Blocker says he believes the school staff appreciates the idea of having an officer nearby as an additional means of safety. And he says he thinks the students like having an officer there too. “Last summer, I had a long discussion with a few recently graduated students from both schools to ask how they felt about having an officer in their High School(s). I was concerned about the narrative, or misunderstood idea of the "Schools to Prison Pipeline". Their answer was an overwhelming yes, keep them in the schools. It was less about security and enforcement, as it was about being there for and with the students.”