Officer Brown steps down from school job after 3 years

Community in Action

Bellingham police officer Chris Brown, whose beat covered the 23 buildings in Bellingham Public Schools, finished his three-and-a-half-year stint as district resource officer on Monday, Jan. 9. Bellingham officer Bo McGinty replaced him.

“It’s a very demanding position” and one that Brown handled with grace, said Jonah Stinson, Bellingham Public Schools’ director of school safety and emergency management. “It’s a lot of ground to cover for one person.”

“Chris had the respect of students,” Stinson added. “We’re pretty fortunate to have the Bellingham Police Department as a partner. They’re recognized as a leader in community policing, as transparent, open, and good communicators. Chris is a good example of that for his department.”

Brown, who sat down for an interview on the snowy Friday morning before Christmas, said his job in part was to “demystify the badge.”

“I wear a uniform and carry a gun,” he said, “but I’m still just a guy.”

Brown played a key role in the schools’ emphasis on “restorative justice” as a way to handle discipline. The approach involves holding students accountable for their actions and giving them a chance to make it right for their victims, rather than immediately opting for a strict punishment such as suspension or expulsion. School suspensions were down 80 percent in 2015 compared to three years earlier as the schools made the transition to this approach.

“When working with students, particularly students who were in trouble for one thing or another, Chris was very good,” Bellingham High School assistant principals Ryland Huff and Jeanette Grisham said in an email the two of them composed for this article. “His calm demeanor and friendly nature put both students and families at ease.”

While a big part of Brown’s job was to respond to incidents at the schools, he made a point of showing up at Bellingham High School and other schools just to check in.

“I think his visibility at our school was really something special,” Grisham and Huff said. “I would venture to say that on average he was in our building a minimum of three times a week; not because his presence was requested or needed — Chris just did a good job of checking in and making the rounds to all the schools.”

Stinson, who helped select McGinty as Brown’s replacement, said the new district resource officer has big shoes to fill but is a good fit for the job.

“Like Brown, Officer McGinty will be a positive presence in our schools. Both share a knack for fostering great rapport with those they serve.”

McGinty shares a qualification for the job that Brown also brought: Both are parents.

“Most of us (police officers) have kids,” Brown said. “We are all stakeholders.”

 

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