School Resource Officer Blain Hatch spent the first part of Tuesday night’s DARE graduation shaking the hand of every Juneau fifth-grader who went through the anti-drug program this school year. At the end of the ceremony, it was his turn to be honored.
For Hatch, this was his final DARE (which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Program) graduation, as he’s retiring in June. He’s been the School Resource Officer since 2001, with a small gap a few years ago when he was on patrol for the police department.
JoAnn Jones, a fifth-grade teacher at Auke Bay Elementary, read off comments from students about what Hatch’s teachings meant to them, and messages they had for him.
“What Officer Hatch means to me is friendship.”
“What I appreciate about Officer Hatch is that he has a great sense of humor but he knows when to use it.”
“Thank you for showing us the world. I really enjoyed learning about the laws. I hope you stay safe.”
Jones then looked up to the gathered students, sitting in the gym at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School, a smirk coming to her face.
“We wish we could clone you multiple times to keep you here in Juneau,” Jones said.
At that cue, all of the students and teachers in attendance lifted small signs with Hatch’s face on them in front of their own faces. As he saw dozens of copies of his face in the crowd, Hatch leaned back and laughed.
He admitted afterward that the comments from students brought him nearly to tears, and he thought the use of his face was “hilarious.” The idea was the brainchild of Jones and Sayéik: Gastineau Community School fifth grade teachers Cinda Stanek and Rebecca Watts, Jones said.
There have been plenty of laughs over the years for Hatch, who began his time with the Juneau Police Department in 1993 before moving to the schools in 2001. As a school resource officer, Hatch, 48, serves as the liaison between JPD and the school district. When there are disturbances in schools, he handles them instead of an officer on patrol having to come address the issues.
That’s only part of the job, though, as Hatch has helped run the DARE program, appears in other classes, assists in pedestrian safety and more. He’s interacted with a wide variety of students, he said, some of whom come into school with negative connotations with police.
“The best part about my job, working with kids, is they get to see police officers as humans,” Hatch said. “Some of these kids have situations where it’s a negative encounter with law enforcement and they get to see us as normal people.”
Through the job, he has forged a variety of long-term friendships and acquaintances. Just this week, he said, he ran into a 25-year-old woman at one school who he remembered from when she went through DARE as a fifth-grader. He’s spent the majority of his life in Juneau-based schools, as he attended Gastineau School, Glacier Valley Elementary, Floyd Dryden Middle School, Juneau-Douglas High School and the University of Alaska Southeast before spending more than a decade as an officer in the schools.
Leaving the job has been a bit of a challenge, Hatch said, because he enjoys it so much. He and his wife are ready to move to the next phase of their lives, though, he said.
In an environment where JPD is facing budget challenges and has to make some tough decisions, he hopes the school resource officer can remain a position for a long time after he leaves.
“I can’t express how important, in my opinion, it is to have school resource officers in the schools,” Hatch said. “I know there are tightened budgets and that kind of thing, with resources, but it’s such a huge benefit. I could go on for hours with the stories and success stories.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.