Grant allows Harper Woods to continue school resource officer program

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published October 19, 2016


HARPER WOODS — The Harper Woods Department of Public Safety has been awarded a significant federal grant to continue its school resource officer program, which builds relationships between students and police.

This grant, which will provide almost $480,000 over three years, will allow the department to station a member of the police force within Harper Woods school buildings to work as a liaison between the police and the students. 

The Harper Woods City Council approved acceptance of this grant at its meeting Oct. 3. The city paid $50,000 and the school district paid $25,000 as a match for the $159,992 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance within the U.S. Department of Justice. The grant will renew the next two years, as will the contributions from the city and the school district.

“The school resource officer program is designed to build positive relationships between students and law enforcement officers,” Harper Woods Schools Superintendent Todd Biederwolf said. “If you look at a lot of the incidents with law enforcement that have been going on around the country, much of it might be prevented by creating a more positive relationship between young people and police. The measure is not reactive to these problems, but it could prevent future incidents from occurring.”

The public safety resource officer has been present in the Harper Woods school district for the last three years. School administrators were eager to bring back the program.

“We just finished a three-year grant to provide funds for a school resource officer. This will renew that program for another three years,” said Biederwolf. “We had a similar program in the early 2000s, but we lost it due to budget concerns. Ever since, we have been looking for ways to bring it back, and this grant was a way we could do so.”

The officer who holds the title of “school resource officer” is Robert Hill, a veteran officer who was honored last spring by the Harper Woods Department of Public Safety as officer of the year.

The department was proud to see this grant go to Harper Woods.

“This is the sixth time we have been successful in receiving a grant, despite intense competition from every police agency in the country,” said Harper Woods Public Safety Chief Jim Burke. “Only 184 agencies nationwide received a grant through this program, and of that group, only five cities in Michigan were awarded funding through the grant application process this year.”

Biederwolf and Burke both said the previous three years in which the program has been active have yielded positive results. There has been a decline of incidents in the school district, and the Public Safety Department has reported beneficial trends among teenagers in regard to safety and crime.

“We have an excellent cooperative relationship with the Harper Woods school district, and the SRO program has been a resounding success,” said Burke. “This grant will allow us to continue to provide a SRO for at least the next three years. This is excellent news for our community and will greatly help us in continuing our mission to make Harper Woods a great place to live.”