CARAWAY, AR (KAIT) - Caraway police are closing the gap between officers and fearful children in the community.
"In 2016, Riverside School District Superintendent Jeff Priest wanted to bring law enforcement into the school," Caraway Police Chief, Shannon Kelems said. "He wanted the parents, kids, and faculty to feel safer with the police here. So, we've provided security for them at the schools."
Every day at Riverside East campus either Caraway Police Chief Kelems or Patrol Sergeant Aaron Bupp report to the school for duty.
Over the past year, it's become more than security work.
The two officers have noticed a gap between them and the children has closed.
"The kids have warmed up to us, they give us high fives, we play games they want to play, it's been a positive effect," Kelems said.
Now, when out on regular patrols, the kids interact with the officers the same way they do at school.
That was not the case before they implemented the new program.
"You know, the children are able to see now that we are not the bad guys," Bupp said. "A lot of people downgrade the police. If it so happens that we have to arrest a child's parent, well used to be it was the parent that would say, 'Oh, that police officer, he's no good.' The children are able to interact with us now. They are able to make their own opinions, like 'Hey, the police aren't just here to be the bad guys and take mom and dad away. They are here to make a difference.'"
Kelems said it's brought them closer to not only the students but parents, too.
They hope their love and support for the community can spread to other towns struggling for a bond between the police and people.
"We love our jobs," Kelems said. "We want to come to work every day and make a difference. I hope we are doing that."
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