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Tag Archive | "County Sheriff Department"

Sheriff proposes school resource officer to district


By Judy Reed

If the Cedar Springs Public School district can swing the cost, the Kent County Sheriff Department may be able to help with security issues, as well as crime prevention, early intervention, and mentoring of the young lives on campus.

Sheriff Larry Stelma, Under Sheriff Michelle Young, Sgt. Jason Kelley, of the Cedar Springs Unit, and Lt. Jeff DeVries, of the Community Policing unit, were on hand at the Cedar Springs Board of Education meeting Monday evening, May 23, to talk about their School Resource Officer program and give the board a proposal for implementing it.

“We have 3,500 students and 350 staff members—4,000 people on campus everyday,” said Dr. Laura VanDuyn, Cedar Springs Public Schools Superintendent.

She noted that there were concerns from the accreditation team about security, and that they have concerns from staff, parents and community about safety issues on any given day. The school resource officer proposal was one step in addressing those issues.

“The atmosphere of a school can change faster than the weather,” remarked Sheriff Stelma, who is also a Cedar Springs resident. “We are passionate about our school resource officers. They are more than just someone walking the halls and parking lots. They are staff educational support. We are passionate about building relationships with kids, staff and parents.” He talked about early intervention into the lives of the bullied and disenfranchised. “We let the officer work with the youngster, the family, the school, before he explodes. Serious incidents happen in schools just like Cedar Springs. There may be problems at home, or maybe they are being bullied. Most are average schools, just like ours. At any given time during the day, there are more people on campus here than anywhere else in the community.”

“There are countless benefits to having someone being in charge of security at the school,” noted Sgt. Kelley. “They can query whether there is anything happening in the community that is going to bleed over into the district. They also have direct contact and access to the Sheriff, detectives, prosecutors, etc. They can be part of the solution to a problem rather than just responding to a scene and reporting it.”

Stelma said they are so passionate about bringing a School Resource Officer (SRO) in that they have arranged to cover one-third of the cost, if the school can cover the other two-thirds. Estimated cost to the district in the first year would be $76,219.

The cost would cover wages and benefits for 40 hours per week for deputy; all standard issued deputy equipment; Kent County Sheriff car, fully equipped, fueled and maintained; and all police training and supervision.

There are currently six schools involved in the program, each with their own officer—Northview, Kenowa Hills, Kent City, Forest Hills, Lowell, and Byron Center. Caledonia may be coming on board as well. Superintendents and principals at the schools with an SRO had nothing but high praise for the officers and the changes it has brought about in their schools. For example, Dustin Cichocki, assistant principal at Lowell High School said, “Simply put, our students are making smarter decisions because of the knowledge they have obtained from Todd (Deputy Summerhays, SRO). I think all buildings should have an advocate and resource like this.”

The school and the Kent County Sheriff Department would make the selection of the officer together. The Sheriff Department would go through the applicants, and choose four or five who might be a good fit. The school would then decide between those applicants.

In addition to deputy training, the SROs also get extra training: Basic School Resource Officer training, and how to keep schools safe. Before the end of the year, they would also get training in assessing threats in a school environment (from the FBI); and training in social media investigations.

What does a SRO do? Here are a few examples:

• Meeting with principal each morning to exchange information gathered from parents, community members, and social media to detect potential spillover of threats, drug activity, and other behavior into campus.

• Meeting with campus and community social workers to understand when and how at-home issues may be motivating a student’s disruptive behavior in order to work with school staff to ensure effective and supportive responses.

• Monitoring radios to watch for spillover onto campus and be a familiar face if one of their students is involved in an incident off campus.

• Listening to students’ concerns about bullying by other students and taking those problems to school administrators to help develop solutions.

• Providing counseling and referrals when sex-abuse victims turn to them for help because of the relationship and trust the officers have built with the students.

• Conduct home visits to contact parents of at-risk students and assist those families.

• Working with the school administrations to keep the schools emergency management plan updated.

• Scheduling emergency drills in conjunction with other local agencies.

• Instruct students on technology awareness, domestic violence, traffic safety and bullying.

• Create and conduct a distracted driving course for students.

• Enroll students in the MSA STOPPED program (parents contacted when students get pulled over).

• Intervene early when student’s behavior starts to raise red flags.

• Stand-by when administrators deal with volatile parents or students.

The SRO position would adapt to whatever the need the school had.

The Board of Education may discuss and vote on the proposal at their next regular board meeting on Monday, June 6, at 6:45 p.m.

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Sheriff Barnwell will not seek fifth term as sheriff


N-Sheriff-BarnwellFrom Sheriff Bill Barnwell

After 40 years in law enforcement and four terms as Sheriff of Montcalm County, I have decided it is time to retire. Therefore, I will not be seeking a fifth term as Montcalm County Sheriff. I do plan to endorse my Undersheriff Mike Williams for Sheriff should he choose to run for office.

I have enjoyed my career very much and now look forward to spending more time with my wife, family and friends. I want to thank all of my family, employees and the citizens of Montcalm County for their support and confidence during my tenure as Sheriff of Montcalm County. One of the best legacies that I leave behind is the quality of the leadership within the Sheriff’s Office and the professionalism of all the employees. I believe the citizens of Montcalm County are in good hands and will continue to be so with the current leadership at the helm.

I have seen lots of changes in law enforcement during my many years as a police officer. Most of the changes have been positive ones such as better training and equipment. As Sheriff, I felt it extremely important to try and ensure my employees received the best training and equipment possible for their safety and the safety of the public they serve.

Educational requirements have also drastically improved. When I first began my career in 1974 with the Sheriff’s Office there were very few deputies who possessed a college degree in Criminal Justice. Now the majority of the deputies are college graduates and several have obtained their Master’s Degree.

The hiring standards to become a Police Officer or a Corrections Officer have greatly increased as well. Now each employee must pass stringent statewide written, physical fitness and mental health testing even before applying for a job and then must undergo a thorough background investigation before being considered as a Deputy or Corrections Officer. Once hired the employee undergoes several months of training with a certified Field Training Officer before they are allowed to work alone. Even then each year they must complete in service training in order to maintain their skills and professionalism.

Improvements in other areas such as vehicles, tactical equipment, technology and firearms have made officers much safer and more efficient. However, the most important factor remains the person behind the badge.

The costs to hire and train a deputy or corrections officer is not cheap. However, failure to train properly will cost even more in the long run. In order to ensure the citizens of Montcalm County continue to have well trained professionals serving them it is imperative that adequate funding be maintained. Failure to do so will make it much tougher to attract the best candidates which I believe our citizens deserve.

My hope is that the citizens of Montcalm County will continue to support their Local Sheriff and the men and women of law enforcement to ensure they have the very best training and equipment to accomplish a very important and difficult job.

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Man pleads guilty to threats against police


Sylvester Jacob Estes

Sylvester Jacob Estes

The man who told officers last April that he “wanted to blow up a cop shop” pled guilty Monday, November 30, to making a false threat of terrorism, and being a second felony offender.

The incident occurred on April 23, when Sylvester Jacob Estes, 32, called police dispatch, from a location in Kent County (not the City of Cedar Springs), and said he was going to harm police officers and others, and that he was going to get weapons.

He was later found by Kent County Sheriff Deputies on Main Street in Cedar Springs, and allegedly told officers that he wanted to “blow up a cop shop.” According to Sgt. Jason Kelley, of the Kent County Sheriff Department’s Cedar Springs Unit, the man didn’t specify to deputies what “cop shop” he wanted to blow up, but a witness said he heard him say the Grand Rapids Police Department.

Estes was charged as a habitual offender because he stole a car in July 2009, and was convicted and sentenced to prison in November 2009. He was released in July 2012.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on the threats charge on January 6.

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