Portland Police Department officers will now carry books in their patrol cars to help connect with the children in the community.
The police department launched its new literacy program last week, placing a box full of books in each of its patrol cars. The literary offerings range from picture books for youngsters to chapter books for older kids.
Portland police chief Nathan Springer said the books will have a twofold purpose: to help reach out to the youth in the community and to promote literacy.
“Our officers patrol the parks every day, they interact with the children as much as possible,” Springer said. “So it’s just something else the can share with the children.”
The books will also be available as a distraction or comfort for children who are experiencing crisis situations that involve law enforcement.
The program came together quickly, thanks in part to social media. Springer met with Delaware County sheriff’s deputy David Vest, who told him about a similar program in Muncie.
After Springer shared a photo on Facebook of Vest handing out books in Delaware County, several community members expressed their support for starting a literacy program for Portland.
“I shared that and everybody here jumped right on board and wanted to help kick it off,” Springer said at the program’s official launch on Friday, about a week after he first shared the photo.
AMX Motorsports, Pizza King, Cat Tales bookstore and East Elementary School sponsored the program and will continue to provide support. The police department will also accept book donations.
“We’ve had to purchase nothing, they’ve brought all of this to us,” Springer said.
Jan McGalliard, Jay School Corporation’s student service coordinator, said the program will be a good addition to the community.
“I just think it’s a great project,” McGalliard said. “It’s going to help the kids get books in their hands and help them build relationships with officers.”
And Portland Mayor Randy Geesaman stressed the importance of providing opportunities to area youth and helping them make good choices.
“We’re always wanting to partner with people that bring things that help our children out,” Geesaman said. “Because anything positive besides drugs that we can present is always a positive thing and we always want to participate in it.”