Police, students bond over lunch at school in new program
There was a heavy police presence at Kalles Junior High in Puyallup on March 26.
The officers weren’t fighting crime. They were eating lunch.
The Puyallup Police Department launched a new program called “Brown Bag with Blue” this year in an effort to create positive interactions with young people.
“I think that’s a real challenge for law enforcement today,” Puyallup Police Chief Scott Engle told The Herald. “This is just a great idea, a great way for us to make a connection with kids.”
On Tuesday, uniformed officers and detectives joined hundreds of students packed into the lunchroom.
Conversations ranged from plans for the upcoming spring break to how to become a police officer.
“A lot of people wanted to know what’s the hardest part of our job — that’s a common question,” Engle said. “Somebody else wanted to know what call do we go to the most.”
It doesn’t matter what’s talked about, Engle said. The point is to put a face to the uniform.
Engle got the idea for “Brown Bag with Blue” after coming back from a law enforcement conference.
Police first visited students at Ferrucci Junior High in January, with about 20 members of the department participating. The next step is to attend Aylen Junior High and continue on from there.
It’s been popular for both officers and students, Engle said.
Kalles Junior High ninth graders Molly Miller and Annalise Scheerer agree. They both talked with Engle about his duties as chief and said being able to do so helped to mitigate any fear they might feel.
“I think most students, we’re kind of timid or scared of police because we see everything that goes on in the news or media, and it just kind of scares us a little bit, and we’re maybe scared to approach them or scared to talk to them,” Scheerer said. “I think it’s really important for them to come here because as students we kind of get to see a different side of police officers that we wouldn’t normally see.
“And I think that’s important for us because that makes us feel safer and makes them feel welcome in our community, too.”
Kalles Junior High principal Guy Kovacs welcomed the idea, saying it helps break down barriers between police and students.
“It’s just an awesome opportunity that I don’t get on an everyday basis, our officers don’t get that on an everyday basis,” Engle said. “I have a feeling when those kids go home today and our officers go home today, both of them will remember the positive connection they had today at lunch.”