On tour

Local law enforcement staying familiar with their schools is a positive thing

Times Observer photo by Stacey Gross Chief Brandon Deppen stopped to check in with eighth grade social studies students (front to back) Rashad Fofana, Landin Parker, and Andrew Wees.

If the police get called to a school, will they recognize it when they walk in the door?

For many local police, the buildings that district students of today populate are the same structures as many of the officers themselves once attended. But with the widespread renovations at schools throughout the district, many of them are unrecognizable.

“The office used to be down here,” said City of Warren Chief of Police Brandon Deppen as he led Youngsville Borough Police Chief Todd Mineweaser through the halls of Beaty-Warren Middle School on Thursday. For the past three or four years, said Deppen, it’s been his department’s mandate that officers are in the schools throughout the district daily. “We want the kids to know our faces. We want them to know we’re here to help them.”

Police presence in the school, said Deppen, is all about being there when nothing is going on, so that if something dangerous ever is happening, the rapport between students and the officers charged with protecting them is already solidly in place.

And it appeared to be, as Mineweaser and Deppen made their way through the building, discussing where everything is now, and where it used to be when they were Beaty students. Several students in grades five through eight recognized Deppen.

One gave him a hug on her way from one class to another. Students in one of the open-air style computer labs smiled and greeted him warmly as he made his way through the halls.

The goal, he said, is not just to make sure that officers are familiar with the layout of the school in the event that they are called to an incident there.

“We want students to be familiar with us. We don’t want them to be afraid around us.”

Deppen said that City of Warren officers are in and out of the schools daily throughout the week. “It might be fifteen minutes,” he said. “It might be they wind up staying for an hour. It all just depends.”

The stop into the schools, he said, is now just a part of their regular patrols. And the officers, he said, look forward to it as much as the students.