BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Superintendent Blake Prewitt had been in talks with the police chief for months about having an officer specifically assigned to work among the Lakeview School District, he said. They already had a contract drafted. They were set to hire someone for the next school year. However when the Parkland, Florida shootings happened on Valentines Day, he was on the phone with the chief the next day.
“I contacted Chief [Jim] Blocker and just said you know, how quickly can we move up the timeline?” said Prewitt. “I think it’s important now that I have a set of eyes and ears from the police department on-site.”
Chief Blocker agreed, he said. The Parkland Shooting, which claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, created a somber mood at the school district.
“No one should ever have to go to school and feel unsafe or worry that someone's going to come in with a gun,” said Prewitt during an interview at his office. “When people say ‘Oh it’s just a sign or the times.’ We should not accept this.”
Five days after the shooting, Officer Jon Kilbourn began. One the first conversations Prewitt had with him was about building trust with the students, he said, which he believes is "proper community policing."
“This is a whole different environment,” said Prewitt. “This goes from responding to a call to creating relationships so that there doesn’t have to be a call.”
Prewitt said Kilbourn spent his first few days visiting the six schools in the district, meeting teachers, parents and students. So far, the kids are already taking to him.
“As a kid you generally don’t see the police officer unless they’re pulling you over or you’re doing something you’re not supposed to do,” Prewitt laughed. “[It's about] creating that relationship with the student. So I can see this officer as someone who’s here to help me.”
One thing Prewitt said he'd like to see are more mental health services provided for the students. He's seeing more and more kids worry over the years. However they don't have the proper outlets to deal with the anxiety. He and the staff help when they can. Soon Ofc. Kilbourn will too.
"I’m hoping that this generation can get things right that my generation didn’t," said Prewitt. "It's not about making kids more fearful. It's about training them, teaching them about how do you make the society and the generation that you want so that we don’t have things like this anymore."