As they arrive at school in the mornings and or during the school day, students at Smithville Elementary, Northside Elementary, DeKalb Middle, and DeKalb County High School are often greeted by members of the Smithville Police Department.
Police Chief Randy Caplinger started the practice this school year so that the officers could build on their relationships with students, teachers, and parents. "Its one of the things we decided we could do that didn't cost any money," said Chief Caplinger. "We go by on our down times. The kids are getting used to us. We enjoy talking to them and the officers are learning the layout of the schools," he said.
Having a law enforcement officer on site gives everyone a better sense of security, according to Beth Pafford, assistant principal at Northside Elementary School. "We love having them here. The students love them. As an administrator, as teachers one of the primary concerns is having a safe place for them to come and learn. If you don't feel safe its very difficult to learn. We just appreciate the community effort because educating the students is a community effort and we're grateful that the police department is making time to come out and build relationships with the students and teachers. Its been a very positive thing," said Pafford.
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Chip Avera, Patrol Officer said he and other members of the Smithville Police Department are visiting the schools as part of their daily patrols but are not serving as School Resource Officers. "We're on regular shift patrol and when possible when we're not too busy answering calls of service to the community we're trying to get out here and visit, more so in the mornings when everybody is coming and going. When classes get started we ease out and come back and forth throughout the day, walking the halls, checking out the schools and just hanging out. We're out here as much as we can be and when we're needed of course. We're trying to be pro-active with all of our officers being involved in getting to know the schools, students, parents, and teachers," said Officer Avera.
"We want everyone to know that we are going to be at every school (in Smithville)," said Corporal Travis Bryant. " They may see us at different times of the day. We'll stop in to talk with the students and the teachers to see how things are going. We try not to alarm anybody. If you see us at school it doesn't mean that anything bad has happened. We're just making sure everything is okay. Once people understand why we're there they feel more at ease," said Corporal Bryant.
Smithville Alderman and Police and Fire Commissioner Shawn Jacobs commended Chief Caplinger for this initiative during last week's city council meeting. "I would like to compliment you Chief for allowing your officers, when they have time to go by the schools where they're walking the halls and getting to know the kids. These aren't SRO's but its just a police presence in the schools more and in these nervous times in our schools I think that's great. I think its great for police officers to be seen there with those police cars out front. It lets the public know that when they see a police car out front its not necessarily a bad thing and that its probably a good thing. This is an initiative you started on your own and I think its very well founded," said Alderman Jacobs.