Wyoming — On a comfy chair in Mike Moore’s office, a boy took some time to work through his thoughts after having a tough morning and needing a break in his school day.
After talking for a while, the boy was ready to return to class. Moore encouraged him: “C’mon. I’ll walk you down. Sound good?”
Moments later, Moore was in the Wyoming Intermediate School cafeteria surrounded by excited 10- and 11-year-olds who were talking about recess while noshing on pizza and guzzling chocolate milk.
Moore recently retired after 27 years with the City of Wyoming Police Department. He spent the last four years as the district’s school resource officer, and was recently hired there in a dual role of head of safety and security and student advocate.
‘We’re humans too. This is just a uniform we wear.’– School Resource Officer Tony Jacobs
He now spends the majority of his days amid the buzz of activity at the fifth- and sixth-grade school, working with students through the highs and lows of their days. It’s the part of his job he always loved as an officer stationed in the schools. He smiles broadly that it’s now his retirement gig.
“It’s essentially just making connections with the kids, working with the kids. If a kid is having a hard day, my office is a spot where they can come and hang out and sit. We talk through things and then get them back to class. Ultimately the goal is to keep them in class, keep them in school and try to curtail any issues that may derail them from that.”
His teddy-bear like presence is felt even without his police uniform. He’s dropped the “officer” title from his name, and to students and staff these days, he is Mr. Moore.
“I enjoy working with the kids. They are fun and they keep me young. It’s nice being able to make those connections.”
He said he recently attended a training where the presenter said it only takes one connection with one adult to make a difference in a child’s life. “Maybe somewhere along the line, I can be that connection to keep them on the right path,” he said.
In an era when the threat of school violence is all too real, Moore is also working on ways to enhance safety standards and offer training district-wide. His job includes revamping the district’s emergency operations plan; updating a training program called Stop the Bleed, which the district last hosted in 2019; and planning for an active shooter protocol training for new staff members. He’s also working with the district nurse to make sure all staff members are trained in CPR and first aid.
Expanding Security, Advocacy
Expanded security is also addressing student and school safety needs, said Superintendent Craig Hoekstra.
Joining Moore on the district’s safety and security team, through a partnership with the City of Wyoming, are new school resource officers Tony Jacobs and Ben Mouch, who are also both focused on building relationships, along with responding to school safety issues and making sure schools are secure. The positions, including Moore’s, are funded by 31a At-Risk dollars from the State of Michigan.
Jacobs – also known as “Officer Tony” – said he has enjoyed his first weeks at school after more than 12 years on patrol and the Tactical Arrest and Confrontation Team for the City of Wyoming. He serves Wyoming High School, Wyoming Intermediate School, Oriole Park and West Elementary Schools.
‘If a kid is having a hard day, my office is a spot where they can come and hang out and sit. We talk through things and then get them back to class.’– Mike Moore, head of safety and security & student advocate
He’s already spontaneously joined students in an elementary gym class and is spending lots of time getting to know them.
“Mostly I’ve been talking with them about safety and why I’m in the school, making sure they understand I’m a safe person. I’m there to keep them safe,” he said. “Nowadays, with everything going on and all the negative press that police get, it’s more important than ever to build relations from an early age.”
He recently spent time in the high school lunch room chatting with students about school, teachers and the first home football game of the year. His goal is for them to see him as more than a cop.
“We’re humans too. This is just a uniform we wear.”
School resource officer Ben Mouch – or “Officer Ben” – also is getting to know students while serving at Wyoming Junior High School, the Regional Center and Parkview, Gladiola and Huntington Woods elementary schools. He’s served on the City of Wyoming force for a year-and-a-half after five years as an officer in Ohio, and looks forward to being “another helping hand to make sure everyone is learning.”
“I specifically chose the junior high role. I can really relate with that age of kids. They are still in that difficult transitional phase. I really do enjoy interacting with them and making sure they are having a good day. They are still children, but they are figuring out how to live in an adult world.”
He knows some students and their parents have had negative interactions with police officers, and he wants them to experience positive ones.
“They can connect with me being Ben and also (as) a police officer.”
Wyoming High School freshman Tina Vo said she appreciates having Jacobs in the building.
“It makes me feel more comfortable and safe. Having a police officer is good for making sure everything is coordinated and organized, and it makes for a better learning environment.”