FILLMORE TWP. — For the first time in district history, Hamilton Community Schools is hiring a School Resource Officer.
Hamilton hired Joe Knapp, a longtime Allegan County Sheriff’s Office deputy, to fill the role. Knapp will service all six HCS buildings, providing education, training and a safety presence throughout the district. He will officially start in the role on December 1.
Superintendent Brad Lusk said school safety and security was a common theme in discussions with community members throughout the summer and fall. He said having an ORS will help the district maintain strong safety protocols and prepare for the unexpected.
“It’s an opportunity to bring in someone to provide that safety and security,” Lusk said. “Accidents are not planned. If we can avoid them, or at least make sure we are trained to handle an emergency or an accident in the best possible way, it will make our neighborhood safer.
Lusk has seen firsthand the effect ORS can have in a school community, having worked with them as a building-level administrator in Grandville and Fowlerville.
“Having worked with a few SROs in the past, I know the impact they can have on buildings and the community, bridging the gap between the school community and law enforcement,” Lusk said.
Knapp spent 23 years with ACSO. He has patrolled Fillmore and Overisel townships in recent years, which contain all but one of the HCS schools. Knapp also served in the US Air Force from 1989 to 1994.
Knapp had five children who graduated from Hamilton schools and was an assistant football coach at Hamilton High for six years.
“I spent a lot of time in schools,” Knapp said. “School safety and children are my passions. My role here is to bond and build relationships with the kids.
Hamilton uses state grants to establish the position. In the future, the role of the SRO will be integrated into the district budget.
“We have to be fiscally responsible to make sure it’s a sustainable part of the district moving forward,” Lusk said. “Now that we have the grants to start this process, we are fortunate to have someone decorated like Joe in our community to play this role.”
Lusk said support from the Hamilton School Board and the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office was helpful in bringing Knapp to the district.