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Uniformed Role Models: School Resource Officers in Anderson County Blaze a Trail
Five years ago, Sgt. Tony Likins was riding to Tennessee with his father when he saw that the Sheriff sent out a memo looking for a School Resource Officer (SRO). He recalls that he looked at his father and confidently said that he wanted to go into the school system. He had worked several years in law enforcement on the streets; he had seen the results of drug addiction, lives headed in directions no one wishes them to be. He had seen a family member introduced to marijuana in high school and, in turn, not graduate. That’s why he looked at his father at that moment and said, “I’m tired of working the end. I want to go back to the beginning.” When he called the Sherriff to express his interest in applying for the position, he said that the only way he wanted to take the position would be if he were also allowed to run the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Program.

The job of the School Resource Officer, Sgt. Likins noted, is to bridge the gap. Likins stated, “When kids see who you are, you are another trusted adult in the school system. We are not just here to stop violence, though we are trained and prepared for that if needed; that’s the dark reason we are here. Even more importantly, though, we are here to build a rapport, to guide, and to teach.” It’s the vision that Superintendent Sheila Mitchell and Sherriff Joe Milam envisioned when they collaborated on a shared plan to have not only the best but also the safest schools in the state. That vision involved hiring an SRO for every school in the district, years before it became a state requirement, as it only did just a few weeks ago when Governor Andy Beshear signed House Bill 63 into law on April 8th, 2022 that each campus in the state must have an SRO by August 1st, 2022. In that regard, Anderson County Public Schools have been forward-thinking on school safety.

Because of our SRO’s dedication and innovation in the schools within Anderson County, many other schools across the state call our SROs to ask how they have handled particular challenges or have trained for specific scenarios. Our SROs are cutting a trail, and have been for their whole careers. Phillip Crane has spent nearly 25 years in law enforcement.  James Dunn has 12 years of law enforcement experience and is a member of the Anderson County ASAP Team (Agency for Substance Abuse Policy). BJ Crane has worked for Anderson County EMS, been a Lieutenant for Lawrenceburg City Police, Chief Deputy for the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, and worked federal court security before becoming an SRO. Michael Todd Evans graduated valedictorian from Kentucky State Police and retired in 2013 as a Sargeant with KSP before joining Anderson County Jailers Office and then the Sheriff’s Office to be assigned as an SRO. Chris Atkins retired in 2017 as the Chief of the Lawrenceburg Police Department before returning to the schools as an SRO in 2019. And Sgt. Tony Likins, a military veteran, himself with many years in law enforcement, was named SRO of the year in 2019 for the entire state of Kentucky.

As any of them will tell you, though, the greatest reward is getting the pleasure every day to make a positive impact on the children they serve. Likins has helped to teach a physics class on wavelengths and frequencies by using the Doppler radar as an example. BJ Crane has helped teach history since he is involved in Civil War reenactments in his personal time. Phillip Crane, with his extensive background from fish and wildlife, is a master at general safety; you can find him giving his students bike safety training. The paintings on the walls of ECC? Those were funded and painted by Todd Evans. James Dunn teaches both 5th grade and 7th grade DARE. And Chris Atkins plays music for the students at Emma B. Ward Elementary to ensure that their morning begins on a happy note. No matter which SRO you have the pleasure to speak with, it is clear that the kids come first. To illustrate, when Sgt. Tony Likins is asked by strangers how many children he has, he answers, “3,750.”

Not only are the SROs in Anderson County trying to be another positive influence in the students’ lives, and blazing a path for SROs across the state, but they show every day what role models and consummate professionals should look like.