HARPER WOODS — Officer Robert Hill jumped at the opportunity to be the new school liaison officer because he wants to be a part of the community building that the Harper Woods Public Safety Department sees as part of its mission.
He wants to make a positive impact on the lives of children at the elementary and secondary school campuses, and promoting safety is the No. 1 priority.
They are goals the district has, as well.
“A highly effective liaison program focuses on relationship building and good decision-making,” Superintendent Todd Biederwolf said in an email. “An effective liaison officer works to eliminate the need for law enforcement by helping the students understand their responsibility to make good decisions. Officer Hill’s focus will be on building relationships and communication structures with our kids that will help keep them safe in school and safe in their lives outside of school.”
Hill, who has been with Harper Woods on the midnight shift since 2006, is filling the vacancy left by Detective Charles Walker’s retirement, but Hill makes it clear that he will be building on the good foundation established through Walker’s work in the position.
“I’m building off what Officer Walker started,” he said. “He laid the foundation. I’m just trying to add to it.”
He’s spent a lot of time doing police runs and dealing with that side of police work, but this is different and he’s excited to dig in.
“This can be something that can benefit the community for years to come,” Hill said. “We’re a community department. For a town this size, it’s important that they know that their department is active. This is proactive policing.”
Hill started his new role a couple of weeks ago, and he’s spending his time learning before implementing new ideas. He said he does have some ideas about things he might want to plan and do as part of the assignment.
“I’m learning from these kids, most of all,” he said. “I’m learning from the staff. I’m learning from the administration. If you listen, these kids will teach you.”
It’s an adjustment from the pace of his midnight work, but he called it a good adjustment — a different facet of police work.
“It shows the community a different kind of service,” he said. “It’s reaching these kids.
“It’s critical for the department,” he said. “It’s critical for the community, as well.”
He noted the community relations aspect.
“These kids know one side of police work: what they see on TV, what they hear in music, media and whatnot,” he said.
“These kids need to realize that I’m a servant to them,” he said.
Hill said it’s amazing that when you show students that you genuinely care about them and show interest, they respond.
He sees his role as a big brother, a mentor.
“Of course my main objective is enforcing the law,” he said, adding that it’s maintaining a safe environment. “These kids, they want safety. They don’t want to get hurt. They don’t want to see their friends getting hurt.”
While he’s new to the position, he said he’s no stranger to the students and the school. They’ve seen him over the years at school sports games or in the community.
He said the staff and administration have been great.
For him, this isn’t a short-term position. He wants the students to know that he’s not just here for a semester. He’s dedicated to this new role.
“I don’t want to disappoint these kids, either,” Hill said.
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