Comstock Park — A Stoney Creek Elementary student raced up to Kent County Sheriff’s Deputy Julie Brown and blurted out “I lost my tooth.”
“No way!” Brown said as she gave the student a high-five. “Did you get any money for it?”
“Only a dollar,” he responded as he gave Brown’s partner, a labradoodle trained therapy dog named Parker, a quick pet before heading off to class.
Every morning, you can find Brown, the school district’s resource officer, along with Parker greeting students at one of Comstock Park’s six buildings. It is all part of her work in making connections with students.
‘Kids flock to her and treat her like a superstar.’— Dan Holden, assistant superintendent
“I think it’s important for students to feel safe when they come to school, and in turn it encourages them to come to me if they need assistance or have something they need help with,” Brown said.
Brown has quickly become a trusted and valued member of Comstock Park Public Schools, said Dan Holden, assistant superintendent of human resources. So much so that when it was announced Brown had been named Outstanding School Officer for 2023 by the Crime Prevention Association of Michigan, the high school celebrated by having her walk through the halls as students and staff applauded and the band played.
“I am not one for attention,” Brown admitted, as she sat in her office at the high school. Several staff members dropped in to chat, always managing to mention Brown’s recent honor.
Holden said Brown came to the district at the same time he did, and that he has watched her interact with the community, students and staff, building their trust and admiration.
“While secondary students may have been hesitant to interact and trust her at first, that changed drastically over a few very short months,” he said. “I quickly noticed students began to come to her for advice and help regarding situations for which they may have been too embarrassed or shy about coming to counselors or administrators.
“Similarly, her impact in the elementary buildings was similar to that of a superhero walking into the building,” he added. “Kids flock to her and treat her like a superstar.”
Becoming Part of the Panther Community
Brown’s interest in law enforcement started when she was interning at the 61st District Court in Grand Rapids and later, for the court’s Domestic Response Team. Through that work, Brown discovered she wanted to be more hands-on.
‘I think it’s important for students to feel safe when they come to school, and in turn it encourages them to come to me if they need assistance.’— Deputy Julie Brown, school district resource off
“I liked getting to know people and I wanted to help people make better decisions,” Brown said. “Basically get the bad guys and help the good ones.”
She joined the sheriff’s department and has been a deputy for 19 years. Having worked road patrol and domestic violence, Brown decided to interview for a school resource officer position. The Kent County Sheriff’s Department currently has 21 resource officers serving schools in the municipalities under the department’s jurisdiction.
“I really wanted to come to Comstock Park because the size of the school was similar to where I had gone to school,” Brown said, adding she graduated from Calvin Christian.
Brown said her work mostly focuses on a proactive approach in working with students and families, with the ultimate goal of keeping people out of the law enforcement system.
“I can plan out my day, but it does not mean that it is going to happen that way because a student may need help with something or a parent wants to come in to discuss an incident,” she said. “No day is ever the same and I really enjoy that.”
Kendra Faustin, high school principal, said Brown has been invaluable with the resources she has provided in supporting students and the district. This can be seen in two projects Brown has developed. The first is the summer program Camp CP with a Deputy, which is designed to connect students from any background to those in law enforcement, helping build better understanding and positive connections.
The second is Parker. Seeing the impacts of COVID on students’ mental health, the district wanted to add a therapy dog. Brown stepped up to do all of the research in finding the dog that would be the perfect fit for the district.
“It is a lot of work having a dog,” Brown said as she looked over at Parker, who was napping on a dog bed next to her desk. “When I get a call, I have to think about what I am going to do with him. Am I going to take Parker on the call with me or do I secure some place? Plus there is the care and all the responsibilities of having a working animal.
“Regardless of that, he has been a great resource in helping to make those connections with students.”
Read more from Comstock Park:
• ‘It can be miraculous’
• For the first time, Comstock Park inducts two ‘powerhouse’ teams into Hall of Fame