City police increasing presence in local schools

City of Manistee Police are showing more of a presence in local schools, as a way to better connect with administration and students. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

City of Manistee Police are showing more of a presence in local schools, as a way to better connect with administration and students. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Honing in on community outreach efforts, police are now paying visits to local schools on a regular basis in order to provide a better sense of safety and presence to students, parents and administration.

For the past month, Tim Kozal, Manistee Department of Public Safety director, said Manistee City Police officers have been assigned to take on local schools in Manistee, checking in with students and staff.

Kozal said the effort aims to be more transparent with the public, help students become more comfortable with police and provide more communication with school administration or staff.

“It was something I thought was necessary; we wanted to reduce some of the anxiety for kids, for all of the teachers and administration, as well. Our presence does wonders with that,” Kozal said.

City police are frequently visiting CASMAN Academy, Manistee Area Public Schools (MAPS), Trinity Lutheran School and Manistee Catholic Central (MCC), with at least one officer assigned to each one.

Jason Allen, principal of MCC, said the officer assigned to the school stops in at least twice a week, and provides safety tips to the school staff while also reaching out to the students.

He added that Brian Gutowski, emergency management coordinator with the Manistee County Sheriff’s Office, also paid a recent visit to MCC administration for Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) training.

“The thing that I love about it is that he is in our hallways, cafeteria, classrooms and builds a relationship with our staff and kids,” said Allen. “It’s beneficial because he gives advice to us on a number of levels like procedures for emergency drills that we do.

“Brian Gutwoski gave a presentation to our staff, and he does a wonderful job with that. Both the sheriff’s office and city police are extremely involved.”

CASMAN Academy director Shelly VanVoorst said police presence in schools helps to give more of a sense of security, especially with the current climate in the United States.

“It’s helping not only the students, but also the presence and feeling of a sense of security within the building,” VanVoorst said.

With police frequently visiting, VanVoorst said students become more familiar with the police available to them in the community, as traditionally, students often do not come into contact with police in a positive light.

In the future, she said CASMAN Academy is planning to hold an event with students and police, where they can interact and enjoy a meal together.

“Students are realizing that the officers are people too,” she said. “They are learning that they can joke around with them and have fun.”

David Moehring, Trinity Lutheran School principal, said with police showing more of a presence at Trinity Lutheran School, a more positive relationship is building between police and the community. He said students are now able to feel more comfortable coming forward, if assistance is needed by police.

“It helps students to realize that police are here to help us,” said Moehring. “It gives students a positive outlook (on law enforcement).”

Kozal said this is a program the city police are planning to continue, with plenty of positive feedback from administration and community members.

“I think you always have to keep working on those partnerships. We actually met with the Manistee School superintendent and went over (the program), and they love it,” he said. “They want to keep this partnership, and keep the communication between law enforcement and the school system. Especially with the events that have happened recently.”

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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