Students at Portsmouth Elementary school will be working with the Portsmouth Police Department as part of the new ‘Trojans in Blue,’ program, designed to foster positive relationships between members of the police force and students.
“About a month ago, Officer Ron Davis approached me probably about a month or so ago about an idea that he and Sargent Dawes had talked about as far as creating relationships between our students and the Portsmouth Police Department,” explained Elementary School Principal, Beth Born. “We’ve had meetings, we’ve talked about it and we’ve hashed it all out, and we’re super excited for this opportunity and we’re thankful for our police department and our fire department for being so willing and open in wanting to work with us and help our students.”
Officers from the force will be serving as mentors for the students and will be working with small groups of students, taking the time to get to know them.
“Chief Rob Ware for the last couple of months has been challenging officers, to think of police work as more than just enforcing the law. He’s been challenging us and encouraging us to get into the community and give back. And that’s what this program is going to be about, giving back,” said Sgt. Andy Dawes. I think we all can agree that law enforcement in today’s society is getting a black eye. There’s a lot of distrust between the community and law enforcement, especially with children. Parents are teaching their kids to be afraid of cops, they’re teaching their kids to not associate with the cops, they’re teaching their kids to hate cops.”
It is the hope of both the school and the police department that this program will aide in fostering positive relationships between students and law enforcement officers.
“We want that to change. A lot of times when we see kids, we are in their homes. They usually think we’re going to arrest their parents or we’re going to arrest them or we’re breaking up some sort of fight. That leaves a bad taste in their mouths. When the time comes that they do need us, they don’t know whether they can trust us and whether or not we can help them,” said Dawes.
And thus the Trojans in Blue program came about, to encourage a new type of growth with not only the children, but the officers as well.
“We’re going to spend one Monday a month over at the elementary school, hanging out and mentoring the sixth graders,” explained Dawes. “We’re going to do this in several different ways, the first thing we’re going to do is just have fun with them. We’re going to come up with games and projects,” said Dawes. “We’re also going to divide the students into teams and assign them to an officer. We’ve set out some time that the officers can interact with those kids, talk with those kids, ask those kids questions and share things about themselves with them as well. We want kids to see police officers as human beings, as people that they can talk to, people that they can approach and realize that we’re very safe and very friendly.”
Another aspect of the program is teaching students about personal safety, crime prevention, leadership and public service.
“One of our goals for the program is finding a public service job that we can take the sixth graders to out in the community and show them that it’s okay and it’s good and it should be done to give back to the community in some way,” Dawes explained. “Whether it’s picking up trash, raking leaves, whatever it is, we’re going to find a service project that they can do and instill those values of service.”
It is the hope that these values and lessons will carry with the students throughout their career as junior high students, high school students and beyond.
“The support that we get in this district from our police department and our fire department doesn’t go unnoticed and isn’t unappreciated by the students and the staff,” said Superintendent Scott Dutey. “We’re looking forward to seeing the positive outcome this program will have on our kids.”
Reach Ciara Conley at 740-981-6977, Facebook “Ciara Conley - Daily Times,” and Twitter @PDT_Ciara.