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Building Public Engagement: Sheriff's Office Works to Achieve Positive Presence in Local Schools

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Building Public Engagement: Sheriff's Office Works to Achieve Positive Presence in Local Schools

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office has been pro-actively increasing programs and public engagement initiatives in an effort to increase trust, understanding, and communication between the community and the law enforcement professionals who protect them. This initiative is very important to newly elected Sheriff Derek Osborne, as this was one of his campaign platforms.

In that effort, the Sheriff’s Office has been collaborating with local school superintendents and principals to open the door to greater presence within area schools. This will open up a new relationship opportunity between law enforcement and the youngest and most vulnerable members of our community, the youth of Tompkins County.

Deputies have been tasked with making brief visits to schools in their patrol zones as time allows.  These visits will provide a greater security presence, but more importantly, will seek to build a more trusting relationship with students and increased dialogue with school staff. 

Rather than presenting themselves as a security presence, deputies are asked to be a positive and friendly face in school hallways, during lunch, recess breaks, and at sporting events.  Sheriff Osborne wants to change the perception children may have of law enforcement, from being surprised to see a deputy and automatically thinking something may be wrong, to viewing members as an approachable part of their community circle.

“Increasing community engagement and building trust is paramount to our public safety efforts, and the best place to start is with our youngest community members. This topic is important to me on several different levels, not only in a law enforcement capacity, but also as a parent in this community”, says Sheriff Osborne.

Additionally, when deputies are busy writing police reports in their patrol vehicles, they have been asked to consider doing so in a school parking lot.  “If a deputy needs to be parked in order to write a police report anyhow, why not do so in a school parking lot? This can only increase the school’s security and will be a beneficial use of time that would have already been spent writing the report in another location. It is a win-win.”, Osborne stated.

Sheriff Osborne is hoping to continuously build on these public engagement initiatives as time goes on but is pleased with the willingness of his employees and community leadership in making these small steps to help increase the relationship that law enforcement has with the community.