Second grade students streamed into the cafeteria. Their eyes widened at the sight of men and women in uniform. “Ooo!! Police!!” one whispered in awe. The Clark County Sheriff’s Department and Ridgefield Police Department were there as part of the Police Activities League (PAL), an initiative to connect “kids, cops, and communities.”
Deputies from the sheriff’s department gave a presentation on safety. One deputy explained the gear he carried each day: badge, pistol and magazines, taser, radio, cell phone, ink pens, handcuffs, and glasses. One student raised his hand. “Can you show us your handcuffs?” The deputy held up the handcuffs, explaining that you could even get handcuffs in different colors. “Whoa!” the student said. The deputy also reminded kids about gun safety. “You guys are too young to handle a gun safely by yourself. So if you see a gun, don’t touch it. Promise me?” Heads nodded.
Other deputies covered stranger danger, 911, car safety, and bike safety. Talking about water safety, one deputy asked, “In the summer, when you’re getting ready to go out on a boat or on the water, what’s the one thing you should put on?” “A swimsuit!” one student answered. Everyone chuckled as the deputy explained, “A life jacket! I meant a life jacket.”
Chief John Brooks of the Ridgefield Police Department reminded students that the officers are all on their side; that they are there to help kids and communities. Commander Phil Sample of the Clark County Sheriff’s Department read a Dr. Seuss book and handed out free books to the students. Outside the cafeteria, students lined up to tour sheriffs department vehicles, including cruisers and even a boat.
As the kids left the presentation, they high-fived Chief Brooks. When he got a strong slap, he shook his hand a little and said, “Ow! Stinger!” The kids smiled and laughed, happy to be getting to know local officers a little bit better.
Officers from the PAL program will visit classrooms a few more times this year to interact with students. For more information on the PAL program, go to www.vancouverpal.org