(The Daily Advertiser) – A new initiative is designed to bring together Lafayette police officers and young students.
The Adopt-A-Cop program will allow elementary classes to connect with an officer for the school year. The officer will be invited to visit regularly with his or her class. Students will be encouraged to write notes and cards to their adopted officer.
“It’s an opportunity for education and a positive relationship between police and the community,” said Lafayette City-Parish Councilwoman Nanette Cook.
The idea was a joint effort between Cook and Justin Centanni, a Lafayette Parish School Board member.
The school board unanimously approved the program Wednesday.
“We are starting off in the city of Lafayette, but this is a program that could easily be expanded parishwide,” Centanni said. “We are going to match police with classrooms in the precinct where they serve. It will give them a chance to see students in the community in a different setting. For me, it’s a powerful example of what our schools can be and the role that we can play beyond the basics of education.”
Cook said she believes the program could be especially meaningful in light of a difficult summer that included the shooting deaths of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, as well as protests after police fatally shot Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota.
“I wanted a new way to show our officers that we love and respect them, and to instill that love and respect in our children at an early age,” Cook said. “As a teacher, I naturally thought of the classroom as the best place to start. Our teachers have such a profound opportunity to shape attitudes and relationships that last a student’s lifetime.”
Board member Britt Latiolais said the initiative reminded him of “Officer Friendly,” a police officer who frequently visited Lafayette Parish schools several years ago.
“For me to still remember him, it really made an impact when I was younger,” Latiolais said. “I think our officer today can have the same impact.”