Additional school deputy position approved

Becky Vargo • Dec 3, 2018 at 9:00 AM

An additional school resource officer will join forces with Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jake MacKeller at Grand Haven Area Public Schools early next year.

The position will be shared with the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District during the school year. That officer will act as a backup and float around the county during the summer. 

Sheriff Steve Kempker said the new school resource officer position was approved by the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 27.

The annual cost will be split between the three entities in this manner: the Grand Haven school district will pay $51,520, the county will pay $42,504 and the intermediate school district will pay $34,776. Kempker said the money covers the deputy’s salary, as well as other costs — such as a car, uniform and other equipment — associated with the new position.

Duties of a school resource officer include the security and safety of the campus, Kempker said.

While primarily stationed at the high school, the additional officer will allow coverage of more school buildings.

The sheriff said the officers handle thefts and drug issues. They also handle school-related incidents that happen off school grounds. 

“That helps free up the road deputies,” Kempker said.

The West Ottawa and Jenison school districts also have an additional officer.

“A couple of the deputies hired said that they always looked up to their high school resource officer,” Kempker said, and that was one of the reasons why they went into police work.

GHAPS Superintendent Andrew Ingall said he is looking forward to the additional police presence on school grounds.

“When you have a sheriff’s deputy that’s primarily based at the high school, but does support elementary schools, they can be stretched thin,” he said. “I think it’s going to be great.” 

The school resource officer works closely with the assistant principals to maintain order in the schools, Ingall said.

“In today’s environment, I really cannot imagine not having the school resource support we have in the city and county,” he added.

MacKeller is one year into his position as the Sheriff’s Office resource officer in Grand Haven schools.

“My main duties are building rapport with the kids and showing them that there’s a person behind the badge,” he said.

The deputy also likes sharing with the kids his own experiences growing up in Grand Haven.

While he does investigate drug and theft issues, he also performs a lot of mentoring; helps students find needed resources; and runs the Teaching, Educating & Mentoring Program (formerly D.A.R.E.) in the schools. He also goes from school to school, helping with lockdown and other safety drills.

MacKeller said the best thing about his job is being able to hang out and talk with the kids. The worst thing he deals with, on a regular basis, is the edible marijuana situation.

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