BUCKSPORT – If you looked in an encyclopedia (remember those?) for a definition of school resource officer, you might see the smiling face of Bucksport School Resource Officer Chris McCrillis.
Officer Chris, as he’s known to students, has an office at the high school but works in all of the schools.
“I really live for this job,” said McCrillis, who has been a school resource officer for the towns of Newport and Searsport before Bucksport recruited him.
The former Vermont state trooper reads stories to children in the younger grades and teaches bike and pedestrian safety to students as well as internet safety. He teaches high school students about intermediate licensing requirements for driving.
But, that’s just instruction. The students know now in McCrillis’s second year that they can pull him aside and ask him questions or share a worry about something going on at home or elsewhere.
“This position is not just law enforcement,” McCrillis said. “It’s really a liason. It’s all encompassing. I’ve got to be that counselor, that social worker. Sometimes I’ve got to just be an ear to listen.”
“Obviously I’m here if something happens,” McCrillis said. “Your child is going to be safe when I’m here.”
Being a dad helps. McCrillis is a father of two and is engaged. His fiancée has a daughter the same age as his youngest son, 10.
McCrillis has been a police officer for 24 years. He attended Norwich University, which is the oldest private military college in the U.S. The Vermont State Police gave a presentation at the school his junior year, which impressed McCrillis and he was hired shortly after graduation.
“I just had this mindset that this is what I want to do,” McCrillis said. The Pittsfield native worked as a trooper in Vermont for 12 years but wanted to return to Maine.
McCrillis said he never intended to work as a school resource officer and tried to decline the offer.
“I said ‘no.’”
The chief said, “You can do it,” McCrillis recalled.
And so he did.
While at the Searsport Police Department, the chief there had an idea for a rewards program for students, which earned them a ride to school in the police cruiser. The program was hugely popular with the community, he said, and was featured on WABI-TV5.
There’s also an underlying community connection with the school resource officer arrangement.
Yes, McCrillis deals with children much of the time. But, he is on patrol during school breaks and answers calls for help other times.
“So when I respond to a burglary or something, a parent will say, ‘Oh I know you, you’re Officer Chris,’” and there’s already a rapport, he said.
“Bucksport is a phenomenal department,” McCrillis said. “They’ve been very supportive of this program.”
RSU 25 Superintendent Jim Boothby said, “It’s all about building relationships and he does a good job with that.
“I love our SRO program,” the superintendent said. “It’s another set of eyes. It’s another individual that can work with students. It adds depth to our planning for safety and how we handle planning for crises.”
“His ability to relate to students is outstanding,” Boothby said. “We get on top of things very quickly because of him.”
McCrillis said, “I really am passionate about this position. I think it has so much value. I think it has so much potential.”