CHESANING — For John Butcher, things are coming full circle.
After previously serving as a sheriff’s deputy in Chesaning during the mid-1990s, Butcher is returning after a 26-year career in law enforcement to work for Chesaning Union Schools as a resource officer.
The district’s Board of Education unanimously approved Butcher’s contract Monday during its regular meeting.
Butcher, 48, will serve the district five days a week, eight hours a day, in addition to working special events, according to district Superintendent Mike McGough.
McGough said it’s the first time in more than a decade that the district has had an on-site officer.
“Student safety and security is always No. 1,” McGough said. “John brings a lot of years of service to the table, a lot of experiences. If you’ve met him, you’ll see he’s got a great personality that will mesh well with kids and staff. And what we’re looking for is obviously safety and security, but also that community policing concept, building relationships with kids and families.”
Board of education President Martin Maier said he’s happy to have Butcher in the district.
“You know, John has 26 years of experience in law enforcement, drug enforcement, he’s an upstanding citizen,” Maier said. “Those are the things that you look for in an individual when you’re trying to hire somebody, and to have that person in our local community, man, we’re lucky to have him.”
Butcher graduated from New Lothrop High School in 1989 before earning his bachelors degree in criminal justice from Lake Superior State University.
Upon graduating from college, Butcher was hired by the Saginaw County Sheriff’s Office in 1993. Two years later, Butcher was assigned to the village, where he served a deputy for two years before entering detective bureau.
For the past 21 years, Butcher has primarily served as an undercover narcotics detective, executing approximately 1,100 search warrants during his career, he said.
Butcher was assigned to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) eight years ago, serving the Northeast District of Michigan while working major drug cases throughout the United States and Canada. Butcher also assisted international agents with drug cases in Mexico, China and Russia, he said.
In addition to working for the DEA, Butcher provided security, completing five presidential details over the span of his career, including two for former U.S. President George W. Bush.
Butcher retired from the DEA in July. Shortly thereafter, a few school employees approached Butcher about a potential opportunity to work with the district. The timing seemed right.
“I’m a local guy, I have family that’s here, friends, I know a lot of the school teachers and their kids, my two kids are involved in the school district, and it’s close to home, with summers of, it’s a no-brainer for me,” Butcher said. “I’m taking on a smaller responsibility, but it is a large responsibility to me, you know, I treat this like the White House. We’re going to defend our house. That’s the way I’m coming at it.”
Butcher will be hired through the village as one of its police officers, with the stipulation that he only work for the school district, according to McGough.
The district is still working with village officials to finalize the details, including Butcher’s salary, according to McGough, though Butcher has been working for the district since staff returned Aug. 26.
As the district’s resource officer, Butcher said his primary functions will include ensuring safety and security for students and staff in all three of the district’s buildings —Big Rock Elementary, the middle school and the high school — though he added that he’d also like to provide drug education for students in the future.
“I’d like to intervene with some kids, or have a class, or have an open hour where kids are more than welcome to come,” Butcher said. “I can tell them what’s out there, how to prevent it, if they’re having any issues.
“If these want to come in and just talk to me for any reason, bullying, whatever, you know, it’s not just going to be about security,” Butcher said. “I’m going to be a resource here. Heck, I would plow snow or mow grass if I had to if they’re short-handed, I’m willing to do anything, you know, I’m here.”
In the interest of safety, Butcher will carry a firearm.
“I’m guessing there’s going to be some people that are not going to be happy with the decision the school board made, but in this day and age, you’re going to have police come in here anyways. Why not have one here?” Butcher said. “History shows the quicker you can confront that issue at the school, the less damage can be done. You know, they have a one in three shot that I’m going to be in their building, so the teachers are feeling pretty good.
“You can call 911, but you could wait a while out here for police to show up,” Butcher continued. “I’m going to confront that situation, if I’m in the same building, right away. If I’m over at Big Rock, I can be here in less than a minute, so it’s kind of a no-brainer to have somebody around.”
In addition to protecting students and staff, Butcher said he hopes to form relationships with the kids, in order to bridge that gap between students and law enforcement.
“In this day and age, with the way the community perceives police, it’s not really the best relationship right now,” Butcher said. “They have to be able to trust law enforcement … In the morning, I’m out here greeting kids as they come off the bus saying, ‘Hey I like your backpack,’ or ‘Hey I like your shoes,’ just to break that ice, and once you break that ice hopefully some of them, instead of me saying hello first, they’ll walk by and say ‘Hey how are you doing?’
“It’s always going to be an open-door policy, they can talk to me about anything,” Butcher continued. “You know, a lot of stuff starts at home, boils over when they come to school and then something happens at school. These kids don’t just come here and lash out at school, there’s a reason, I believe, so you just want to talk to them and try to be their friend.”
Village Administrator Troy Feltman said the establishment of a resource officer in Chesaning will benefit the community on several levels.
“It promotes a positive relationship between law enforcement and the students/families as well as staff,” Feltman said via email. “It also gives a level of protection that is only common sense in today’s world. The resource officer is another certified individual who can assist the police department on various issues in the community, both from a prevention and response standpoint. I am a strong proponent of partnerships and the ongoing effort by the village and school district to collaborate will only enhance community services.”