Ludington, MCC school resource officers work together to keep kids safe.

January 20, 2022

Officer Case, left, and Officer Morris.

Ludington, MCC school resource officers work together to keep kids safe.

Around the County is a presentation of Preferred Credit Union, www.preferredcu.org, located locally at 266 N. Jebavy Dr., Ludington.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

Keeping kids safe in schools is one of the top priorities for school officials and law enforcement. This school year, students and staff at Ludington Area School District, Mason County Central Public Schools and West Shore Community College were introduced to new school resource officers.

Officer Austin Morris of Ludington Police Department began his assignment at LASD in September while Officer Steve Case of Scottville Police Department began his assignment in May, covering MCC and WSCC.

Officer Morris

Morris joins the ranks of 20 years of school resource officers (SROs) who have served LASD. Case is the first officer to serve in that capacity at MCC and WSCC.

“This has been a great assignment,” Case said. “I enjoy learning about the schools and communities I serve, along with meeting the various people. I’ve always enjoyed working with kids and hope to have a positive impact on their lives.”

Case had been working as a corrections deputy at Mason County Sheriff’s Office when he applied for the Scottville SRO position. The City of Scottville then assisted in his attendance of the WSCC Law Enforcement Academy.

Morris is a graduate of Ludington High School and received an associate degree from WSCC prior to attending its Law Enforcement Academy. He began working at Ludington Police Department full-time in 2019. He said the role of SRO offers a different perspective of law enforcement.

“Our academy training prepares us for what is considered normal law enforcement duties. But, when you work with kids, of all ages, on a daily basis, it’s a whole different type of law enforcement. These kids will someday be adults. It’s my hope that by building positive relationships while they are young that those relationships continue into adulthood.”

Morris said he is proud to remain in Ludington and serve the community where he grew up.

Currently, the City of Ludington has a contract with LASD to provide a school resource officer. The school pays for the majority of the position. Beginning last year, the City of Scottville entered into a similar agreement with MCC. WSCC, under the Michigan Community College Act, created its own police department, contracting with Scottville for services. Originally, WSCC had approached Mason County Sheriff’s Office to provide enhanced coverage at the Victory Township campus. However, the Mason County Board of Commissioners rejected the college’s plan.

Officer Case

Case said a typical work day is a balance between being present on the campuses of MCC and WSCC.

“Those two areas have very different demographics,” Case said. “WSCC has a mix of traditional college students, non-tradition students, older adults who are using the Recreation Center, teens in the Career and Technical Education Center, and then people at the ice arena.”

Scottville Police Chief Matt Murphy said Scottville’s creation of an SRO means more collaboration and communication between LPD and SPD, along with a continuation of cooperation with MCSO and Michigan State Police.

“There are a lot of kids who are from Ludington’s school district who attend MCC and there are also kids from the MCC district who attend Ludington. Our school resource officers, Officer Case and Officer Morris, are in constant contact with each other. When there is a situation that takes place in Ludington concerning an MCC student, Officer Morris is able to relay that information to Officer Case, and vice versa.”

“We share a lot of information and resources,” Morris said. “Our department has been providing SRO services for quite a bit longer and there is a lot of information and there are a lot of procedures that I am able to share with Officer Case, along with other members of SPD. At the same time, there are many things that they are able to share with me. One example is truancy. Scottville Police Department has developed a good process to handle when kids are not in school. With our two departments working together, and following the same protocols, this makes a better, more consistent process for the prosecutor’s office, if it reaches that point.”

“This type of cooperation doesn’t happen everywhere,” Chief Murphy said. “We are very fortunate in Mason County that we have law enforcement and schools that work together. This includes LPD, SPD, the sheriff’s office, MSP, along with all the schools, public and private. There is constant communication and we all have the common goal of protecting our communities most important citizens, our children.”

Both Case and Morris recently attended the Michigan State Police’s Teaching Educating and Mentoring (TEAM) school for SROs.

“It was great that both our administrations worked together to send us to this program at the same time,” Morris said. “It allows us to contact each other and share ideas, knowing that we were in the same program at the same time.”

Case said the training specialized in working with children.

“I’m a dad of small children, but I have to admit, there’s nothing more intimidating than walking into a kindergarten class,” Case said with a little laugh.

Both Case and Morris said they are invested in the community and the schools.

“I plan on being in Ludington the rest of my career,” Morris said.

“I started coaching wrestling at MCC this year and plan to continue to be involved in the schools,” Case said.

Leading by example is an important trait for all police officers, Murphy said, but SROs are likely the most visible law enforcement officers for most kids in the schools. Murphy also stressed that the SROs are not the only contact with the schools and law enforcement.

“All of our police officers in Scottville make it a point to be visible at the schools,” Murphy said. “Myself, Officer Case, Officer Katrina Skinner and Officer Scott Fessenden all make efforts to be visible in the schools and with the children of our community. The sheriff’s office, LPD, and MSP also make these efforts as well.”

Morris said he has been impressed with the openness students have about issues that are of concern.

“The kids in this area are great about coming forward with issues that concern them,” he said. “They recognize that they must be part of the line of communication in order to keep them safe.”

“That’s what all of this comes down to,” Murphy added. “Keeping our children and the school personnel safe, regardless of the scope of the situation.”

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