Paw Paw police in the classroom to build ties with community

PAW PAW, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Law enforcement and educators often team up to teach students the 'do's' and 'don'ts' early on, but what about police teaching kids in the classroom?

It's happening right now in Paw Paw, through a new program in Van Buren County.

It's part of the Paw Paw Police Department's Community Policing Approach.

The idea is to give students an introduction to officers early on--a proven way to build trust and lower crime.

While the role playing has teachers saying things you wouldn't expect them to say--as one "offers a cigarette" to a student--it's the real life scenarios that they say will leave a lasting impression.

Officer Tim McMeekan still works the road, but has also been working with students throughout Paw Paw since February, introducing kids to law enforcement where they're most comfortable.

"These children will now see officers in their classrooms in a positive way, starting in kindergarten and it will follow them through high school," said Paw Paw Police Chief Eric Marshall.

It's a first for Van Buren County, where McMeekan is trained through the Michigan State Police's T.E.A.M. program--Teaching, Education, and Mentoring.

"Just helping kids understand they are part of a community makes a difference in itself, when you are able to connect them with it's a positive for everybody," said Paw Paw Superintendent Tony Habre.

Teachers throughout the district sign-up for a session with Officer McMeekan, learning lessons based on grade, ranging from computer safety to stranger danger.

Kids also get a chance to ask their own questions as part of the lesson.

"The kids are going to grow up trusting police officers; they are not just there when things are bad," Chief Marshall said.

The district and Paw Paw Police plan to evaluate the program in May.

They'll go over what worked and what didn't work this year, in the hopes of getting officers into more classrooms next year.