Brentwood Elementary students were welcomed on their first day back to school by the friendly faces of Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's deputies.
Middle and high school students are accustomed to the presence of school resource officers, however the CPSO's presence at the elementary school was a special first-day treat for students, many of whom are entering school for the first time, said Security Enforcement Division Cmdr. Doug Poole.
"We're really excited about this school year. We want it to be a safe productive year, and this is just so nice for the little kids to get a chance to see us," Poole said. "This is kind of a fun way to let the kids know — with hugs and high fives — that we're here, we're fun and we're available if you need us."
Principal Julee Spann said this year's first-day initiative was a good representation of the year-long collaborative efforts between law enforcement and the school community.
"Anytime we need anything, they're always there," she said. "It's also wonderful for the children to see them as friends, heros and people that they run to when they need something."
She added their presence reiterates the importance of school attendance as the officers spend time visiting with the students throughout the year.
"They go into our classrooms and interact with our children. They come and have lunch, so there's just really a bond being formed early on, which is great."
CPSO Cpl. Tish Johnson said she hopes Tuesday's visit will help dispel negative law enforcement misconceptions that perpetuate the idea officers are only available for arrests or punishment. When hearing parents say they will "tell the officer" a child is misbehaving, Johnson said she is compelled to bring clarity.
"I have to turn around and say, ‘Please don't do that. I'm their friend.' Then, I have to tell the child, ‘Don't ever be afraid of me.' We want to let them know if they're ever in need or they're ever in trouble, they can come find us."
Johnson was one of two female officers present at Brentwood, an honor she wore proudly noting she never saw female law enforcement officers as a child.
The parish's junior deputy program opened her eyes to new career possibilities, she said.
"When I found out that they take women, it was like, ‘Let's do this!' "