HARRISBURG, Pa. - An influx of gang activity and traumatic experiences are some of the reasons the Harrisburg School District and city police department have formed a community policing partnership.
"We want to make sure that those kids have an opportunity to learn like every other child in every other school district," said Harrisburg Police Commissioner Thomas Carter. "Across this state, across this country."
All members of the police department, but specifically the community policing division will have an open door policy with the schools. It will allow officers to stop by whenever they can.
"We are not here to arrest any kids," said Carter. "We are here to be a resource, a positive role model, to be positive help for the students we have at these schools."
The officers will work to help the needs of the principals and teachers, but also build friendships with the students to change the way police are viewed.
"This means that the police department is not just seen as law enforcement but are seen as everyday people who just want to help our students," said Dr. Sybil Knight-Burney, Harrisburg School District Superintendent. "So when people see a police car outside of a school, they are not alarmed but they are changing the atmosphere."
Officers plan to bring in K9's to meet students, have lunch or visit classes, things to show the students they care.
"You'll see more officers at football and basketball games, again working in a positive way to engage students and create positive relationships," said Blake Lynch, Harrisburg Police Department Community Policing Division Coordinator. "Not just talking about policing but talking about the Eagles game coming up on Sunday, talking about great things going on."
Officers are also hoping this partnership will lead to more students becoming interested in careers with law enforcement, and will use some of the time with the students to talk about those opportunities.