Hancock Public Schools introduces new resource officer
HANCOCK — Hancock Schools has a new School Resource Officer (SRO), Hancock Police Officer Darron Olson. Olson is a former officer with the Laurium Police, the Calumet Village Police, and was an officer at the Keweenaw Academy. He brings with him many years of working with youth.
Superintendent Steve Patchin said that the school has always been concerned about safety. Over the past couple of years, he said, that level of concern has been elevated with each school incident that has happened across the country. The mass shooting that occurred at downstate Oxford High School in November 2021 convinced the Hancock School Board to find ways to increase security in its schools. Security concerns are not a new issue at Hancock.
“When they made that decision,” Patchin said at a news conference on Thursday, “they called an emergency board meeting, on a Friday night, and said “Okay, now we’re going to look into a School Resource Officer.'”
Patchin said that was around the time the state announced grants to fund more SROs throughout the state. The grant, said Patchin, will fund 50% of the costs for a SRO, each year for three years.
A press release from Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Office in January announced that 195 school districts, intermediate school districts, and public-school academies will receive nearly $25 million to support the hiring of 195 school resource officers (SROs) for the next three years.
To accomplish that, the Michigan Legislature has provided a $25 million appropriation for the Michigan State Police Grants and Community Services Division (GCSD), to award and administer grants to public schools, public school districts, and intermediate school districts to improve the safety and security of students, staff, and school buildings by partnering with county/local law enforcement to secure at least one school resource officer, according to the Michigan.gov website.
Patchin said once the school was awarded the funding, the next step was identifying the right person for the position.
“It’s not just any person that’s going to be successful as a School Resource Officer,” he said.
Patchin said Olson’s experience made him the ideal candidate, considering his background with the Keweenaw Academy and working with youth, combined with his military background.
In addition to his experience with the best and the worst of situations, Olson is also a program builder, which Patchin said, is a significant component of the position.
With Olson only being in his second week in the position in Hancock, Patchin said the school is just at the “front end” of the program.
“We have no idea how it will go, or where it will go,” he said.
Patchin said that the role of any SRO entails more than just one of security. Another component of the role is the ability of the SRO to identify students, as early as kindergarten, who are struggling, then doing interventions.
The school, he said, has resources from the Copper Country Intermediate School District as well as the Copper Country Mental Health.
“We’ve got all sorts of resources throughout our community,” he said, “and now we’ve got an SRO to help us with that screening mechanism to identify them early.”
Officer Olson concurred, saying that security is a high priority, but the role of an SRO is also one of early detection and prevention. This involves building a relationship and trust with the students and staff. Together they can work with a troubled student and get them counseling.
Moving forward, said Olson, there will also be other programs such as those dealing with drug prevention, cyber bullying and other crimes, and other classes.
“Those will be after we get established,” he said. “We’ve only been here a week, so it’s a brand-new program.”
Hancock Police Chief Tami Sleeman said the importance of developing relationships and trust between the SRO and the students actually extends beyond the campus grounds.
“If there is somebody,” she said, “maybe something is not right at home and now they feel like they have someone that they can confide in. Sometimes it goes further and outside of the school.”
She said that is why she wants to emphasize the importance of the SRO.
“Finding the right person was the most important thing,” she said.
While it is difficult to find someone who wants to come into law enforcement, she added, to find an officer who oversees all the children in the community is important and Officer Olson, she said, is the perfect person.
“So, we’re really excited to be building these relationships with the school and the community.”