RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Aiming to get students more familiar with police, Rutherford officers routinely -- and randomly -- enter schools every day as part of a “Park and Walk” program.
“We check in with the administration, check in with teachers, walk around the hallways," Rutherford Police Chief John Russo told Daily Voice.
Officers enter schools at different times and for various time periods to keep everyone on their toes.
“It is all based on what is going on during the day," Russo said of the program, launched in the spring of 2013. "There is nothing routine. Everything is different. The only thing that is mandated is that we get into each school every day."Although the squad has a school resource officer, "we want to have an officer respond to school every day," the chief said. "It enhances our service."
Rutherford Schools Supt. Jack Hurley called the program a “win-win.”
“First of all, it allows the police to get to know the building if there ever was an event where we required police presence,” Hurley said.
It also fosters positive relationships all around, he said."I love the idea because I know most of them," said Shonya Jordan, who has a 10-year-old daughter in school. "I feel safer having them around because you never know what can happen. To me, it's added protection."
"I think it's kind of cool," said Maya Cruz, who has a daughter in sixth grade. "The neighborhood cop, like the mailman or any other public servant -- it's nice to see and recognize their friendly face."The reactions brought a smile to Russo's face.
“It’s good for the students, and good for teachers to know we are there all the time,” the chief said. “The students see an officer and know it’s not a bad thing -- it’s not necessarily that we are being called for something bad at the building.”
“It creates a good healthy understanding of the police,” Hurley added. “Students can see police officers are there to help them if they need it.”
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