Harrison Township Elementary School resource officer Katelin Macken promotes a positive experience for students and helps them feel more comfortable with her presence in the building.
Macken was assigned to HTES in September and said, since arriving at the school, it’s been a rewarding experience.
“You come into this position and you’re not sure how the kids will respond to you, especially being in uniform. But after a while, you engage with them and get them out of their comfort zones and it’s just natural,” said Macken. “Now, I get a million high fives walking down the hallways.”
She recalled receiving handmade birthday cards from students a few weeks ago, and a third-grader wrote “five reasons why she loves Officer Kate.” Macken went on to add the third-grader was shy and would often hide behind friends when Macken is out in the morning greeting students.
“I was attentive to her and she loved that,” she said. “I made her feel confident in herself and strong. To make that kind of impact, especially on the older kids in the school, is huge.”
She said she makes an effort to get all kids to smile and to enjoy themselves while at school. Often, she said she’ll go to recess to see how the kids are doing, and she’ll have 30 kids running up to her to say “hi.”
“We’re all holding hands, working together and going around the whole blacktop,” she said. “That in and of itself is so surreal to me that I had an impact on these kids like that, and how they’re that happy and we’re working as a team.”
Outside of school, Macken said she get surprised sometimes when students recognize her because she has her hair down and isn’t in uniform, but is always happy to give the kids hugs and chat with them.
“Their comfortability and making them feel safe is very important,” said Macken.
She later said that comfortability should be the No. 1 objective of an SRO and that she’s succeeded in getting the kids to open up and talk to her.
Macken added she also teaches kids about how to be safe at home and school. Whether it’s informing them on why she has a gun on her hip, if kids should be answering the front door at home and other basics for them to keep in mind as they get older and interact with SROs Hank McLaughlin, Ryan Golden and Pat Morris.
“I kind of started off by asking them questions when I came into this school. I went to all of the classrooms and figured out where their mentality was at first and how I could bounce off of that,” said Macken.
With the current state of the country and many municipalities and school districts upgrading their school safety measures, Macken said she wants to focus on keeping the schools safe and reassuring to parents their kids are safe.
“It’s community policing, being strict or stern when you need to be, limiting yourself and putting yourself in that position,” she said. “That’s what a police officer is: adapt, adjust and overcome. Any situation that you come across.”
She said she wants safety to be the least of the kids’ worries when they come to school, especially with their age group because “they’re learning about themselves and everything they need in order to succeed.”