Preschool- and elementary-age children were given a unique opportunity Friday morning to get some one-on-one face time with the Puyallup Police Department.
Officer Mark Ketter was the special guest at the Puyallup Public Library’s Superheroes at Storytime summer reading event. For more than four years, Superheroes at Storytime has been a positive partnership between the library and police department that encourages the fostering of friendly relations between young children and the officers who serve and protect them.
“We like having a great relationship (with the police department),” said Bonnie Anderson, children’s librarian. “We want kids to think of the police as their friends. The timing is really great — enforcing the positive idea to come together as a community. Our police take care of us as a library and as a community. They’re a great police force.”
We want kids to think of the police as their friends. The timing is really great — enforcing the positive idea to come together as a community.
Bonnie Anderson, children’s librarian
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Carol Hopkins, also a children’s librarian at the library, said the police are often called to the library to handle problems with patrons.
“This is something to give them a positive reason to come by,” Hopkins said.
The program is usually presented twice a year: once during the summer, and a second time right before Halloween, which includes trick-or-treat safety tips provided by the officer volunteering that day.
When the July 22 Superheroes at Storytime was scheduled last January, there was no predicting the horrific violence toward police on the national stage six months later, Hopkins said.
Regardless of the violence nationally, Capt. Scott Engle of the Puyallup Police Department said the overarching end goal of the program is for the police to make a positive relationship with children.
“So they know that officers are human beings, too,” Engle said. “That they are here to help them. Hopefully, those things that they learn at a young age stick with them. For us, we look at it as an opportunity to make a positive connection with kids at a young age, and form a bond and a lasting memory that they go to story time and have a story time with an officer. It also enforces the importance of reading in their growth and development. We get to help with that added benefit.”
Seeking volunteers from the department to read to the children is not a problem.
“There is no shortage of volunteers for this,” Engle said. “We have several officers doing this more than once.”
Ketter is one officer who has volunteered for the program many times before.
You get to hang out with kids, and who wouldn’t want to do that? I love the kids and the energy that they bring. It’s hard to have a bad day with them around.
Officer Mark Ketter, Puyallup Police Department
“I (volunteer) every year,” Ketter said. “Everyone wants to do it. You get to hang out with kids, and who wouldn’t want to do that? I love the kids and the energy that they bring. It’s hard to have a bad day with them around.”
Ketter started at the Puyallup Police Department as an entry-level officer in 2006 and was once an Explorer with the department before graduating from Rogers High School in 2000 and heading off to college. He returned to the Puyallup Police Department after serving in the Washington State Patrol.
Ketter, who serves as the school resource officer at Puyallup High School, has a 6-year-old son and newborn daughter.
“He has a great rapport with the kids and is very warm and outgoing with the kids,” Engle said.
On Friday, Ketter read the book, “Officer Buckle and Gloria,” about a police officer and his K-9 who does tricks behind his back while he gives safety tips to the children. Ketter said he used to always read this book to children in his mother’s elementary classroom. Ketter’s parents both are retired Puyallup School District teachers.
At the end of the program, Ketter welcomed children to climb through the back seat of his squad car and take a look at the inside. He also took photos with the kids and answered any questions they had.
Jessica Miller from Fife brought her three daughters to the program.
“It’s a great way to show that the police are good guys,” Miller said. “It gives them a good image, especially with everything going on.”
Hopkins said about 80 children and their parents attended the Friday morning program.
“There was so much enthusiasm in the room,” she said. “It was absolutely great.”