Sterling Heights Police Sgt. Aaron Susalla sings and plays guitar alongside Browning Elementary School students for a music video about bus safety.

Sterling Heights Police Sgt. Aaron Susalla sings and plays guitar alongside Browning Elementary School students for a music video about bus safety.

YouTube screen capture courtesy of Sterling Heights Television


Sergeant strums guitar to spread school bus safety

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published October 15, 2019

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Sterling Heights Police Sgt. Aaron Susalla hopes that if school bus safety advice won’t stick in drivers’ heads the normal way, maybe a song will. 

That’s why he recently brought out his guitar and did a “Hit the Brakes” music video about the topic with the help of Browning Elementary School students. The city debuted the video on its official YouTube channel Oct. 3, a couple of weeks ahead of National School Bus Safety Week, Oct. 21-25.

“We always get complaints about people disregarding the school bus,” Susalla said. “We did the typical enforcement things, posting Facebook stories, showing how we’re out there writing tickets. 

“We felt that something outside of the box, something unique, (could) send a message, with the actual kids being a part of it. I think the impact of having the kids sing the message, I think that’s going to increase the awareness.”

Susalla’s song, set to the melody of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself,” changes the lyrics to remind drivers to “hit your brakes” around a school bus that is making a stop. Police will ticket motorists for passing a school bus while its red flashing lights are on.

Until now, Susalla hasn’t had much of a music background or stage experience. 

“I played guitar off and on,” he said. “I taught myself back in college — 2002 was when I bought the guitar and taught myself. This is the first time I played outside my home.”

Susalla said the city’s Community Relations Department asked for police staff who know how to play guitar, and he volunteered. He said he chose “Love Yourself” as the melody for his message because Bieber is someone kids can relate to. His modified “Hit the Brakes” lyrics took “about a half hour” to write.

After he presented the lyrics to his lieutenant and a few people involved with the video, the city arranged for Browning Elementary’s participation. Susalla said the music video’s filming took up to an hour or so outside a school bus stop and then an additional 3 to 3 1/2 hours at the school.

“The children actually practiced on their lunch hour and recess hours for two weeks with the music teacher,” Susalla said.

Browning sixth grader Tyler Josleyn called the song routine “easy to learn” and a fun experience overall. He also called Susalla “a really cool guy.”

“I’ve never been in something like that before,” Josleyn said. “I think it was worth giving up recesses and lunch to learn the song and learn some of the things we do in it.”

Susalla thanked Sterling Heights Television and the city’s Community Relations Department for their support in making the music video possible. He said he has received “a lot of good, positive feedback” about the video on Facebook and YouTube. He said he got some razzing from co-workers, but it all has been in good fun.

“It’s something that I would expect, doing something out of the ordinary,” he said.

Susalla’s song isn’t the first time the city has performed to a pop song on YouTube. In 2018, police officers lip-synched to Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” as part of a viral online Lip Sync Challenge among police agencies nationwide. 

See the “Hit the Brakes” video on the SHTV1 YouTube page. Learn more about the Sterling Heights Police Department by visiting www.sterling-heights.net or by calling (586) 446-2800.

Call Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at (586) 498-1058.

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