Beyond the Badge: Concord Community School’s in-house police department
DUNLAP, Ind. --- More school districts across Indiana are getting on board with creating their own in-house police departments.
This week on Beyond the Badge, Michiana gets a look at Concord Community Schools. It’s the second district in Elkhart County to start a school-based police department.
CCSPD started in 2017. The department has two officers right now to cover seven campuses, including the high school. CCSPD focuses on making the schools a safe place for kids and building relationships that make a difference.
Chief Nic Minder was one of the officers who started and created the department from the ground up.
“For me, being able to work with kids and have an impact at the younger ages was a big part of why I came here,” Minder said. “Being visible at all the buildings during arrival and dismissal time is a very important part of our day.”
CCSPD deals with a lot of the normal things that a police officer would, they’re just inside the school setting.
“We’ve got the ability to go out and if there’s a kid we need to check on at home, we can go out and do a welfare check instead of calling county or city,” Minder explained.
Minder said Concord was around the 13th district in Indiana to start a school-based department and now it’s well over 30 across the state.
“I think the idea behind school-based policing is having officers in the building as much as possible to build relationships with students,” he said. “You know, the bottom line is the more they see an adult in the building, the more trusted that adult becomes and that doesn't matter if you're a teacher, administrator or a police officer. And so, Concord believes having their own in-house police department would help build those relationships and ultimately help the students in the community whenever they needed to be involved with law enforcement.
Minder comes to Concord after serving nearly 10 years with Elkhart County.
“We try to let kids know we have an open door and we’re not just here to enforce laws and, you know, be that law enforcement aspect of it,” he said. “We focus on three different areas basically being a law counselor, law educator and law officer and so for me, it’s more important to me to be those other two and not the law enforcement guy.”
Minder also serves as a coach with the girls' basketball program at the high school.
“Most of our officers that we’ve had throughout our 5 years here have coached at some level,” Minder said. “Just being able to relate to kids outside of the uniform and them get to know you on a personal level, helps that relationship in the building.”
Officer John Riddle described Concord as a close-knit community.
“I think the students connect with us and it's just been a great opportunity and a great experience,” Riddle said.“If you show them who you are and you’re just a normal person, you know, I’ve mended some of those fences the short time I’ve been here with some of those kids that had bad experiences with police and that makes it all worthwhile.”
Officer Riddle’s currently helping out at the junior high, but his normal position is with K through 6, and he’s also a resource officer for the intermediate school.
“If you’re vulnerable and you say hi to them first, everything else is just really easy,” Riddle explained.
Riddle came to Concord PD last July, after serving with South Bend for 29 years.
“To be able to do this in this portion of my life is just awesome, I feel really blessed,” he said.
Riddle said the most rewarding part of what he does now is how quickly kids want to have a relationship with a police officer.
“Coming from South Bend, I really never got to have those relationships in a more professional way...in a close setting. It was kind of call to call to call and being a school resource officer, you get to really get to know kids, become friends, become someone they can talk to, and you really can see that it makes a change in their life.”
“Since we started in 2017, those kids are the ones that are starting to graduate now. You know, I've been able to see kids and build relationships with them and see them be successful, whether it's in their academics, their athletics, their extracurriculars, maybe band,” Minder said. “Seeing the success stories and, and sometimes being part of those success stories and helping kids maybe change the path that they were on to be successful and to graduate from here. That's been the most exciting, probably most rewarding thing with our department.”
In May, another officer will be joining the team at CCSPD.