When Columbus Division of Police Commander Elrico "Rock" Alli read for our Books & Badges event this week at Gables Elementary he was asked a surprising question by a little girl, "Are you an actor?"
His grin was evident despite his mask, "No, I'm not an actor."
Our volunteer offered, "He has a nice voice, doesn't he? He sounds like an actor."
The girl nodded, then looked back at the commander, "But were you ever in a movie?"
"I was in a movie actually. There was a movie filmed here in Columbus and part of it was in a police precinct. I was in that. It's called, 'I Am Wrath.'"
The little girl nodded wisely. "Yes, I thought so. I saw that movie, and I saw you in it."
We were stunned. When the autograph portion of Books & Badges came up, she got hers signed first!
Our whole week at Gables was like that--full of fun surprises and good times. Thirteen different CPD officers read to 17 classes of more than 400 students, and each student got to take home a copy of the book their officer read to them.
Lieutenant Chris Lieb brought in water-related police gear for the kids to see, since the book he read was, "Paddington Sets Sail." He showed them a life jacket, a whistle, a waterproof light, and a very strong rope that officers use to help people in distress in the water. The children didn't think the rope was all that strong, so he allowed them to try to break it...and try...and try.
We had a guest the day Lt Lieb was there--our dear friend Officer James Poole, who you may recall is now with the Motorcycle Unit. He showed his motorcycle to two classes, teaching them about how heavy it is (1,000 pounds), how many times he dropped it when he was training (more than 50), and that he thought about quitting, but kept going and is very glad he did because he loves his job. When Lt Lieb went back to the classroom with "his" class to sign their books, there were exclamations of, "This is the best day ever!"
Following all our Books & Badges readings, the children have a chance to ask the officers questions about their jobs and their lives. This week the officers got questions such as, "What do you do in your free time?" "What is your favorite color?" "What is your favorite food," and the number one question asked at all our readings, "Do you like donuts?" But many of the questions centered on police work.
Police badges are popular for questions. Commander Duane Mabry was asked if he had to polish his shiny badge every day. He said his old one he did, but his new one stays shiny on its own. When the kindergartners asked Officer Denis Harbin about his badge, he took it off and passed it around for them to hold and look at up close. We believe that's a Books & Badges first, and we think it's incredibly sweet.
When Starfish Board Member and Deputy Chief Tim Becker was telling the children about the items on his duty belt, he told them that one of the things officers use their batons for the most is to sort through dirty piles of clothes on the floor of homes they're searching.
"Very useful," a child remarked thoughtfully.
K-9 Officer Jay Shockey's wife, Carrie Smith, teaches fourth grade at Gables, so of course, he read to her class (and two others!). You've seen him and his partner, Falco, on Starfish before, and they were both a huge hit with the kids. He told the children they could be "junior officers" by taking the following pledge:
"I promise to treat my classmates and others the way I would like to be treated: with respect, using kind words, not putting others down. I promise to always try my best in the classroom and in anything else I do. I promise to always be positive, make smart choices, and follow directions. I promise to always have fun no matter what I am doing."
Acting Commander Tim Myers's wife is a wildlife biologist. On their vacations, they travel and take pictures of many of the animals in the book he read to the children, "The Truths (and Myths) About Weird Animals." He said his wife is great at spotting animals, and then he photographs them, and believe us when we say he is an excellent photographer. The children asked him as many questions about the pictures he took as they did about policing, especially since another animal friend of ours came in to say hi--Officer John Kifer and K-9 Carr.
Carr was so excited to see the kids that he whined until one of our volunteers petted him, then he felt better. Officer Kifer explained that Carr likes to chase other animals, but he's a very good listener, so he'll stop as soon as he tells him to. He also told the kids that all of CPD's K-9's come from overseas and that they have passports.
Officer Brian Carter's partner, K-9 Odja came from France. They, like all the other K-9 teams, go to “school” every week to train.
Many of the children were thrilled to find out they were able to keep the books. Books & Badges is one of our favorite programs, and we're so grateful to our sponsor, the officers, and the schools, who all allow us to make these wonderful moments possible. Thank you all!