Some of Oklahoma’s finest officers stepped out of the patrol cars and into the classrooms Tuesday in local Cleveland County schools. The grassroots initiative was based on immediate need rather than a social program. Basically, the city of Moore, Ok., faced staffing shortages this week, and a few local cops covered teaching shifts as substitutes.
Photos posted on the Moore Police Department website depict officers teaching sixth-grade classes at Apple Creek Elementary. The department said additional officers have served at Houchin and Broadmoore, as well. Officers continue to receive paychecks from the city police fund. The in-school work borders somewhere between volunteer work and an “all hands on deck” civic pride.
“We are thankful to be able to assist our community during these difficult times,” MPD wrote on Facebook.
Officers Volunteered for the Job
Located about 15 minutes south of Oklahoma City, Moore regularly faces substitute teacher shortages. Their plight is a common one: many metropolitan school districts in the US face public school teacher shortages. Finding capable substitutes is an even bigger challenge.
Luckily, according to the city, Moore enjoys a long-established history of juggling resources. Moore Chief of Police Todd R. Gibson said that between six and eight uniformed officers are subbing in various classrooms this week while on duty. The schools receive the “leg-up” free of charge, and the officers teach a variety of ages and subjects.
“Police officers did not have to participate, they chose to,” Gibson said. “These officers are deeply connected to the community and the schools. They always enjoy the opportunity to interact with the future of our community in a helpful way.”
Social Media Response
Some naysayers of the efforts criticized the police department for teaching in full uniform with guns armed. But the department responded in kind, explaining that the interactions help build relationships for the future.
“Everything starts with relationships. When you’ve already established a relationship, you’re not a scary authoritarian figure to our children. They understand that when you come in to provide a service and to help them, what our true desires are,” Moore Lt. Kyle Johnson said.
Detractors of the public service initiative also noted safety concerns due to the officers’ lack of COVID masks in the photos. Lt. Johnson responded directly to this concern, as well.
“Officers are adhering to all current school policies,” he said. “Every officer that reports for duty does full temp checks. We don’t allow officers to come to work that are sick or displaying symptoms. We take necessary protocols for people that have had exposures.”
Moore Public Schools said that the volunteering officers already interact with students frequently as part of planned safety programs on campus. In a statement issued to local news, the school district said the following:
“These officers are assigned to our school sites every day through safety partnerships we have with the Moore Police and Oklahoma City Police Departments. Our students see and interact with their on-site School Resource Officers (SRO) while they attend school.”