To provide feedback on the Community Policing Dispatch, e-mail the editorial board at CPDispatch@usdoj.gov.
U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
The COPS Office is pleased to feature the DeKalb Police Department (DPD) as the June 2019 winner of the Community Policing in Action Photo Contest. The winning photo features Detective Aaron Lockhart, a School Resource Officer for DPD, giving a shoulder ride to a Camp Power attendee during the camp’s summer celebration.
Detective Aaron Lockhart of the DeKalb Police Department (DPD) has worked as a School Resource Officer (SRO) for the past 15 years. In his time as an SRO, he has become a friendly face across the community: “Everywhere you go, whether it is Walmart or Walgreens, you run into kids and families that you’ve seen in school,” says Detective Lockhart. “The most important [part of the job] is to form a bond with the [students].”
Detective Lockhart has been creating these connections since day one on the job. “It does take some time to form a relationship with these kids,” he says. “Eventually, they feel comfortable talking to you, and as long you treat them fairly and professionally—even if they are charged and arrested—they will thank you down the road for helping them,” said Detective Lockhart.
When a student does face an issue with the law, Lockhart tries to divert students from the court system by using intervention resources such as counseling and peer mediation. Community partnerships—with organizations like the Department of Children and Family Services, Safe Passages, and more—are crucial to helping students get back on track when faced with hardships at school or at home.
June marks the end of the school year, which is an especially important time to convey critical messages to youths about being responsible. With summer break right around the corner, and celebrations like prom and graduation, this transitional period is a time when students are likely to be exposed to situations where responsible decision-making is critical.
In alternate years, the police department hosts a “DUI Day” for the students, where juniors and seniors watch a mock scenario of a DUI head-on crash. The reenactment shows the students the entire process, from the initial 9-1-1 call to the coroner arriving on the scene. The interactive event gives students an eye-opening experience to help them understand the dangers of drinking and driving.
The last DUI Day was in 2018. This year, Lockhart is making announcements, creating memos, and providing statistics to help get through to students in any way possible. “We try and stress that there are [other ways to celebrate responsibly,] because we know that peer pressure is going to happen,” says Detective Lockhart.
A memo Lockhart posted on every computer screen around the high school reminded students that “DeKalb Police Department’s and DeKalb High School’s primary safety message is in the word PROM, which asks teens to ‘Please Return On Monday.’” Lockhart emphasized that every little thing helps, because “even if it saves one person’s life, it is worth it.”
Once the school year is over and summer break begins, communities often see a rise in youth delinquency. To mediate this, the DPD created the Youth in Need Task Force, which in turn created Camp Power in 2014.
Camp Power provides a structured outlet for youths over the summer months and is offered at no cost to families. There is academic tutoring, mentoring, and nutrition education with healthy lunches and snacks, along with a variety of educational and recreational opportunities and field trips. Parents are able to drop their kids off without the worry of leaving children at home unoccupied.
“It’s a really cool program. Officers go out to the camp pretty much every day to socialize and do activities with the kids,” says Detective Lockhart. “Our goal is to make the children feel comfortable with the police and to try to form a connection with them, so they can say, ‘Hey, if I ever need anything, I know the police are here to help.’”
The winning photo contest image of Detective Lockhart with the young camper was taken on the final day of Camp Power. The little girl was so excited about the end of the summer party and she asked Lockhart for a “shoulder ride” when the photo was taken. The image is a testament to Detective Lockhart and DPD’s efforts to create positive relationships with the youth within the community they serve. “I'm excited that we have this opportunity to work with kids [while on the job]. It is fulfilling, and hopefully the more we work with our youth the better our society is going to be in the long run.”
To sign up for monthly updates or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your email address in the Subscribe box.