[This is the fourth in a six part series to highlight Bartlesville Public Schools’ School Resource Officers and raise community awareness regarding safety in our schools.]
Sergeant Ben Hollander is one of six school resource officers (“SROs”) assigned to the Bartlesville Public Schools District (the “District”). As a reminder, the District is in the process of adding three additional SROs over the next six months to the six SROs already in place. The Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation recently sat down with Sergeant Hollander to learn more about his role within our schools.
Born in Iowa City, Iowa, Sergeant Hollander moved to Bartlesville with his family at a young age. He attended Bartlesville Public Schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade, graduating Bartlesville High School with the Class of 1997. He attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah with a plan to get his teaching degree. However, as a residential assistant in the dorms, he was interested in learning more about the campus police and did a ride along with them. That experience changed the direction of his career path.
He joined the police reserve, serving as a volunteer supporting the campus police. Then, upon graduating from college with a degree in Criminal Justice, he applied for a position with the Salina, Oklahoma Police Department. He served as a patrol officer for two and a half years in Salina before transferring to Pryor for another two and a half years on patrol.
In August of 2004, he applied to be a police officer in Bartlesville and was excited for the opportunity to return home. During his time with the Bartlesville Police Department, he has served as a Council Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) instructor, Field Training Officer, a leader of the Crisis Negotiation Team, a leader of the Serious Accident Response Team, which deals with severe injuries and major property damage, and a member of the Honor Guard.
During his time on patrol, Hollander had many positive experiences with the schools. He was a member of the Truancy Team, serving with BPS Director of Health and Safety, Kerry Ickleberry, as a liaison between law enforcement and the schools. While visiting his own kids at school during his lunch breaks (wearing his parent hat), principals would often ask him for advice on various student situations.
In August of 2022, Sergeant Hollander was presented with the option to become a school resource officer or go into the training division of the police department. Given the opportunity to develop meaningful and positive relationships with students and staff and work fairly regular hours, Hollander says the decision to join the SRO team was fairly easy for him.
Before becoming an SRO, Sergeant Hollander had no idea how much work SROs did. He continues to be amazed at how different things are from one day to the next. He serves many roles as SRO, from greeting students in the morning to serving as a positive role model throughout the day. He recognizes that many families and students have had negative experiences with law enforcement and it is important to him that he is seen as a friendly face – someone who is available to talk, listen, and answer questions.
Hollander is often called to support teachers dealing with severe and profound students or students in Back on Track program, but he also often takes a proactive approach with students who seem upset or distracted on a given day, reaching out to connect with them. He regularly lets students and staff know that he is available to provide whatever support they may need and has the time to let them talk it out.
When engaging with students, he pulls on his negotiation skills and crisis training and uses gentle persistence to get students to open up about their issues. Through this slow and consistent approach he builds quality relationships. His goal is that students will share enough information with him that he can connect them to the resources they need – whether that is help at school or with situations at home. He meets Bartlesville students where they are. He understands that school is the only place that some of our students feel truly safe. If he can reinforce that sense of security and build trust, he sees that as a win.
Hollander received the title of “sergeant” after taking a written test and passing a challenging exam before an oral review board. He manages and oversees the other school resource officers in the District and serves as a liaison between them and the administration in the District. Hollander is grateful that all of the Bartlesville SROs have a good relationship with the school administration and work together as a cohesive team.
Maintaining many of his leadership roles on the special teams within the Bartlesville Police Department while serving as an SRO means that in the rare situation that a crisis situation arises outside of the school, those situations take priority over his role as an SRO. In those circumstances, the other SROs would temporarily fill in for him within the schools.
When school is not in session, Hollander participates in supplemental training and will fill in as needed on patrol with the Bartlesville Police Department. He also engages in youth outreach with the Boys and Girls Club and the Westside Community Center. When not serving the schools and the City, he enjoys spending time with his wife and their four children.
The Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation is raising funds to support and sustain the District’s valuable SRO positions. To contribute to this fundraising effort, contact Blair Ellis, BPSF Executive Director at 918-336-8600, ext 3523 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or by visiting bpsfoundation.org/donate