Officer Nick Lienemann of the Warren Police Department walks through the halls of Cousino High School on June 2. Lienemann is one of several Warren officers who serve as a school resource officer in the Warren Consolidated Schools district.

Officer Nick Lienemann of the Warren Police Department walks through the halls of Cousino High School on June 2. Lienemann is one of several Warren officers who serve as a school resource officer in the Warren Consolidated Schools district.

Photo by Brian Wells

Warren police, district officials talk safety in wake of shootings

By: Brian Wells | Warren Weekly | Published June 22, 2022


WARREN — On most mornings, officer Nick Lienemann of the Warren Police Department can be found walking the halls of Cousino High School, exchanging pleasantries with staff and students. He’s not there to get anyone in trouble, but to instead help students.

“They get to see me as a person other than just a guy in a uniform,” he said. “They can learn that Officer Nick is a guy like me. He has stress, he has anxiety, he gets hungry, he gets tired.”

Being able to relate to the students in the high school helps them to feel more comfortable having conversations with him that can help deter crime and other situations from unfolding in the school, he said. Unlike dealing with people while working on the street, he said he can follow students to see their progress as they navigate problems in their lives.

But while he enjoys spending time and building relationships with the students, his priority as the school’s resource officer is to keep them safe.

Lienemann is one of six Warren police officers who serve as school resource officers in schools throughout Warren and the surrounding areas. These officers are an instrumental part of keeping students safe, said Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer.

“Their primary responsibility is to promote a positive relationship between the school facilities, students and police and to deter crime in and around the schools,” Dwyer said.

The officers have to be highly visible and help school administrators maintain a secure and safe environment. They also befriend the students and gain their confidence, Dwyer said.

“What has happened, not necessarily only in Warren but throughout the country where you do have school resource officers, there’s been a number of major problems that develop in the school that have been diffused because of the relationship that the officers have with the students,” Dwyer said.

School resource officers are trained police officers who possess the knowledge, skill and ability to work in a school while also showing demonstrated interest in working with children, adolescents and school personnel, Dwyer said.

Since resource officers were put in schools more than 20 years ago, they have been very effective at deterring crime, Dwyer said.

“If we did have a situation such as Sandy Hook or Oxford has had, in the old days we waited for the resources,” Dwyer said. “Now, you immediately take action. You don’t wait for the SWAT team to arrive. You have to take immediate action to save lives.”

Van Dyke Public Schools Superintendent Piper Bognar recently requested a second school resource officer for the district.

“We have one (resource officer) and we will be able to have a second in the fall, which is wonderful,” she said.

Warren Woods Public Schools has one school resource officer for the district who spends most of the time at the high schools but will also go to other buildings as needed, Superintendent Stacey Denewith-Fici said in an email.

Warren Consolidated Schools has three school resource officers from the Warren Police Department who serve in two Warren schools and one in Sterling Heights. In addition, they have a partnership with the Troy Police Department’s community policing division for its school in Troy.

Robert Livernois, the district’s superintendent, said the school resource officers provide an important connection between students and the community.

“They serve quite often much like a counselor where they make connections with kids, build relationships, and they’ve come to understand the climate of the school as it connects to the neighborhoods where the students live,” he said.

“My long-term experience is they come to a school with the mindset of helping and connecting with kids far more than some police or quasi-criminal presence to them,” Livernois added.


School resource officers are only part of the solution, officials say
While Dwyer said the officers have been effective in diffusing situations and reducing crime in the schools, school officials feel they are only part of the solution to reducing the amount of crime and danger present in local schools.

The Warren Police Department has added resources to help monitor social media accounts for intel on things that might be going on in the district. Dwyer also said while he would support resource officers in schools of all levels and additional officers to help operate metal detectors, his department doesn’t have the resources to do so.

Dwyer said it should be the responsibility of the federal government to provide funding to local law enforcement agencies to support the addition of more school resource officers.

“They fund these positions because they want us to protect and support the need for officers in the schools at all levels,” he said.

Van Dyke Public Schools has added secure vestibules to its buildings that require visitors to get buzzed in. The district keeps its doors locked, has increased the number and quality of its cameras and requires adults to have badges to enter, Bognar said.

Any student that arrives later in the day must also be buzzed into the school, she said.

In the last few years, Warren Consolidated Schools has had bonds passed by voters that have helped develop a comprehensive approach to school safety using protocols to keep people safe in a crisis. All of the district’s staff has been through ALICE (alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate) training. Trained security personnel assist the district’s resource officers at extracurricular events.

The district has also added counselors to each building.

“That has become a substantial support piece for kids that, in the long run, helps them navigate things and do well in school,” Livernois said.

In addition, the district employs a former Warren police lieutenant to serve as the director of security and crisis management. Also, the district has installed 1,750 security cameras throughout its buildings that are integrated with local law enforcement agencies, which can improve the district’s response to a crisis.

“Our system works in real time that allows us to see things as they happen and we have begun to explore ways to improve our readiness to respond in real time,” Livernois said.

Warren Woods has also benefited from recent bonds that were passed to support projects that improve school safety. Most recently, the district added secure entrances at both high schools, making all of the buildings in the district equipped with them, Denewith-Fici said.

In addition, the district has used funds to upgrade surveillance equipment and replace classroom doors and locks.

But the most effective deterrent for school safety, Livernois said, is making sure that students feel comfortable sharing information with adults.

“When you have a school full of students who feel comfortable sharing information with adults, it is the best preventative tool, bar none, to anything else you could do because (if) a friend shares some stupid chat with them or something like that they immediately go and tell on them and that lets us respond so quickly to things and resolve it,” Livernois said. “And that is the ticket.”