The Conway Police Department is working with local schools to improve their relationship with students, and help prevent crime in and outside the classroom.
The department requires new recruits to train at local middle and high schools before they hit the streets. Conway Police say they’re the only department in the county to have this sort of training. “It’s a must. I think every officer, before they leave, their FTO training program, should have to through a school,” said Officer Jonathan Guiles, a school resource for Conway High School.
It’s not uncommon for Conway High School students to see police officers in the hallways or cafeteria, but the officers aren’t there to respond to trouble. Guiles said, “It’s a head start on a relationship that’s desperately needed. As of right now with all that’s been going on over the years, we’ve sort of lost the trust of the teenagers.”
Since last spring, Officer Guiles has trained new recruits at the high school. After officers graduate from the police academy, Conway Police requires them to perform field training for about eight weeks. The officers spend the last two weeks of that training in local middle and high schools, shadowing school resource officers. In addition to Conway High, officers also conduct this training at Conway and Whittemore Park Middle Schools. So far, eight new Conway police officers have been through the program.
Guiles says building relationships with students in the classroom helps officers when they’re out on the streets.“The 15 to 16 hundred students they see at Conway High School, these are the very same students they’re going to see out there in either a positive or negative way,” he said. He added, getting to know the ins and outs of the schools will put officers a step ahead should they ever respond to an emergency there. “Knowing the layout of the building, upstairs, downstairs, where the gym is located, the cafeteria, it’s a plus in every aspect of law enforcement,” said Guiles.
According to Officer Guiles, every officer who’s been through the school training has told him it’s made a difference. “Trust can be built. A bond can be established. So it can help us out on the street,” he said.