Article: Developing Relationships is Where School Safety Begins

Developing Relationships is Where School Safety Begins

"This is the platform. We are trying to teach young men how to be young men and young ladies how to be young ladies. Also, to know that it’s OK to be different and be something in society.”

Those are the words of Lorain City Schools School Resource Officer Miguel Baez, a 23-year veteran of the Lorain Police Department, whom everyone in the city knows in one capacity or another. That’s because Baez — who is not eager to spend the day talking about himself or the work he does — shows up, to put it succinctly. From Shop with a Cop during the winter holidays to Safety Town in the summer, Baez is known as the guy who will show up for Lorain kids and families. 

“If it’s a school or a juvenile, I’m there,” Baez recently said with a laugh.

The district’s Director of Safety and Security Reuben Figueroa, who trained under Baez when he joined LPD years ago, now has the longtime officer on his team at Lorain Schools. He said Baez is the perfect person for the job.

“He is everywhere. He is not just in one building. He is at all the buildings. He is across the city,” Figueroa said. “He won’t speak about himself, so I will… He is one of the most interactive SROs we have had in the district because he connects. It is not just in school. It’s after hours, and that, to me is the biggest part. (The students) recognize him because he’s at their games. They recognize him because he’s at different events — at their dance laughing, at the WinterFest. He’s everywhere. Having an SRO that is also the community resource officer is huge.” 

Baez is a Lorain native who will tell everyone he is “just one of three kids raised by a single mother down the street at the 21st projects.”

His pathway out started with staying out of trouble, enlisting in the military, and then joining the Lorain Police Department in 1998. He came home to patrol the same streets and projects he traveled as a kid, offering credence to the words, “Trust me, I know what you are going through.” 

“I’ve been doing community policing from day one,” he said. “The opportunity came to go into the schools, and I felt it was a bigger platform where we could reach out to the children. Being a native of the city… I understand a lot of where these kids are coming from. The ideas of poverty, gangs, having a single parent — yeah, so the idea of trying to fit in and not having is definitely something I am aware of.”

Figueroa said being both the SRO and CRO gives Baez the chance to be positive and proactive in his work, even as being a cop can sometimes be punitive. 

“With him, they don’t see a badge; they see a person,” Figueroa said. “He is a good person and he loves kids.” 

The latter quality is a good one to have when there are about 17 schools and almost 6,500 kids in the public, private, and charter schools in Lorain. 

Dealing with so many kids gives Baez a little context into what he said he has learned that all kids need.

“They need guidance and structure,” he said.

“When you are helping, I don’t think there is a shut-off button because I don’t think it’s on your time. It’s on what people are going through.”

So, as the end of the holiday season signals a return to the classroom for Lorain teachers, students, and staff, it is also a time for Baez to do what he does best. 

He said he wouldn’t let the last two weeks at home go by without him finding out what went on at home for students while they were away from the structure of school. 

“It’s pretty much coming in, greeting the children, and obviously learning what has been going on at home. You know they have been on break. It’s not even about the whole Christmas idea, but just how is it at home,” he said. “Look, I’ve already done the gangs and the street crimes in my career, but I am changing over, and I know that even as I wear this uniform, I am still human.

“My children go to Lorain City Schools. I am still a father, a parent, a brother, and I am here, so they get a better understanding of what an officer is, and I am easy to access for them to talk to about anything.”

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