For the two newest Bozeman school resource officers, their job isn't just about giving class presentations or providing extra security at schools.
It's also about the little things, like chatting with a kid about NFL playoffs or lending an ear to a student who's having a bad day.
“The rewards are immeasurable,” said Hal Richardson, 33.
Richardson and Clint Anderson, 34, are the Bozeman Police Department's newest school resource officers assigned to the Bozeman School District's elementary and middle schools.
Richardson is an eight-year Bozeman police veteran. He began as school resource officer at the start of the school year and is stationed at Sacajawea Middle School. He also covers Hawthorne, Irving, Longfellow and Morning Star elementary schools.
Anderson has been with the police department for six years. He started as school resource officer in December, has his office at Chief Joseph Middle School and covers Hyalite, Meadowlark, Emily Dickinson and Whittier elementary schools.
Starting this year, the Bozeman School District doubled the number of school resource officers in the district. The officers replace the D.A.R.E anti-drug program, which the school district used for more than two decades.
Two school resource officers have been stationed at Bozeman High School for decades, spending a majority of their time there. The D.A.R.E. program was only a 10-week course students participated in during fifth grade.
“Now, every kid in this school district is going to see a police officer in their schools from kindergarten to 12th grade,” Richardson said.
Since it's still new, both Richardson and Anderson said they have freedom to work with the school district to shape their jobs in the most effective ways.
“It can bend and shift and change,” Richardson said of the program.
Richardson and Anderson, aside from being a law enforcement presence in the schools, provide education and counseling at their schools. They co-teach lessons with teachers, work with kids who are struggling in school and give presentations to classes.
“We're fostering that relationship with kids,” Richardson said.
Anderson said he wanted the position to hopefully prevent students from making poor decisions later in life. And it doesn't take a curriculum to do that. It could be as simple as conversations on the playground at recess, Anderson said.
“You don't have to be in the classroom to communicate with these kids,” Anderson said.
Bozeman police Capt. Steve Crawford, who oversees the school resource program, said Richardson and Anderson fit well in their new jobs.
Richardson is calm and soft spoken, Crawford said. “He does really well speaking with the kids and the school officials he works with … He has a knack for working with both sides.”
Anderson is outgoing and has enthusiasm and positive energy, Crawford said. “It's kind of infectious,” Crawford said. “He's hit the ground running and is doing excellent.”
Crawford said the feedback the department has received from the schools since Richardson and Anderson started has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Things are going really well,” Crawford said.
Police Chief Ron Price agreed.
“I'm very happy with it,” Price said. “I think we have great involvement at all grade levels.”
Marilyn King, deputy superintendent of Bozeman Schools, said the initial year with the new school resource officers is a time to see what's feasible with the program.
They started out with goals, like having officers visit kindergarten through fourth-grade classes at least twice a year, and having different areas of focus for each grade level.
The officers attend staff and parent meetings, open houses, monitor parking lots and help the district with overall safety. And they are also available for any type of classroom visit or presentation.
The school district splits the cost of the officers' salary with the police department, paying about $140,000 annually for all four officers, King said.
“We have an excellent relationship with the Bozeman Police Department,” King said. “It's a pleasure and an honor to work so closely and positively with our police department.”
Both Anderson and Richardson said they hope their long-term commitment keeps kids from committing crimes and making wrong decisions.
“I hope the program sticks around,” Anderson said. “It's a good time.”