ELIZABETHTOWN — The Bladen County Sheriff’s Office has developed a new partnership with Bladen County Schools to provide random safety checks at all of the county’s schools.
Bladen County Sheriff’s Jim McVicker said all of his deputies and the command staff — himself included — are being encouraged to stop at a school, walk in, speak to the students, speak to the staff and faculty. In addition, the officers are encouraged to have lunch with the students when their schedule permits.
“It allows the students and faculty to know who the deputies are,” said McVicker.
He added that, should the school have an incident that would require a law enforcement response, the staff and students will feel comfortable with the deputies.
Chief Deputy Larry Guyton said all of the deputies are becoming familiar with the layout of all 13 schools.
“If we have to go into a situation (at any of the schools), they know the layout. If we need to search a building or have an emergency, we can do it a whole lot quicker,” said Guyton.
Guyton said, for example, when he visits with East Bladen High, he enjoys finding a place where he is visible. Guyton said sometimes he will drive around and park in the parking lot where he said folks will approach him to talk.
“Investigator Morgan Johnson has been doing this for a while,” said McVicker of visiting the schools.
Since the deputies began visiting the schools, McVicker said he has received positive feedback from the students and principals. He said Dublin Primary School Principal Haley Cheshire sent a letter to the Sheriff’s Office recently praising the school resource officer assigned to that school for his professionalism.
McVicker said that he and several deputies also attended the recent “See You At the Pole” events at several of Bladen County’s Schools.
Guyton said the idea was McVicker’s idea. Guyton said there have been so many school shootings lately and the safety of Bladen County’s students is very important. Guyton also said that the last few months, the image of law enforcement has not been very positive.
“We’re trying to have a presence in the schools so that the setting (in which a student interacts with a deputy) is not violent, traumatic, etc.,” said Guyton.
“The deputies seem to love it,” said McVicker.
Guyton said because of the things that are occurring in the schools, the Sheriff’s Office is also getting requests to perform training with staff at the courthouse, in the hospital, and businesses.
Erin Smith can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.