Beyond the Badge: Why North Judson PD starts each day at local schools

Beyond the Badge: Why North Judson PD starts each day at local schools

NORTH JUDSON, Ind. --- This week on Beyond the Badge, we’re heading back to the North Judson Police Department to show Michiana why officers there are connecting with kids at such a young age.

Just last week, a Mishawaka teen pleaded guilty to one count of intimidation after threatening to carry out a shooting at Mishawaka High School.

Local departments have been ramping up police presence after threats surfaced nationwide at schools hoping to stop this dangerous trend.

This week’s installment details how North Judson is handling these threats there and why it’s so important to be present at schools.

“We usually drive around the schools. Being a small community, we know what the families drive,” Chief of Police Kelly Fisher said. “We drive around to see if there’s any kinds of suspicious vehicles that we don’t recognize. The officer presence makes a big difference, that’s why we drive around and be seen.” 

Chief Fisher started at North Judson in 1993. 

“Judson give me a chance to work as a road officer. I worked here for seven years. I worked in the sergeant capacity, and then I got an opportunity to go over to the Sheriff's Department in 99. I went over there and I worked there for 18 years and then I had an opportunity to come back here as a Police Chief. And so in 2017, I came back.” 

Each day, a North Judson officer starts their day at the local schools.

Keaton Leszek has been with the department for three years.

“I’m a K-9 Handler. I’ve been a K-9 Handler for almost a year.  Part of our job is going around to the schools, just maintaining school safety,” explained K-9 Officer Leszek.

“We'll walk through the schools,” Fisher said. “Greet the kids, stop in the cafeteria for early drop off, talk to the kids see how they're doing how their day is and then we'll go out by the bus when the buses drop off.”

It’s something that Fisher said makes a big impact.

“I believe if you start with them when they're at a young age, let them know that the police are their friends, and they'll protect them,” she said. “We want it to be if they have problems. They can feel comfortable calling the police if they need help.” 

Being present at the schools is nothing new for North Judson PD. As a smaller community, they’re able to connect one on one with the kids.

“We are able to tell if there's problems…if somebody is being different than they normally are, that we'd be able to pick up on that because we know them on a daily basis,” she said.

It’s also about keeping kids safe.

“I feel that officer presence is a deterrent,” she said. “If there is going to be some kind of problem started that they see a marked squad car, uniformed officer that they're going to feel that that's not a place to start problems.” 

That rang true just a few weeks back.

“We had got word that there's a nationwide threat through one of the social medias. We always take it serious. We feel that it's our job to keep the kids safe. Make sure that nothing happens. All the officers came out, we were at each one of the schools by the entrances. We did our morning patrols around the schools, and we made it known that we were there.” 

Recently, North Judson-San Pierre schools approved a Narcan policy. Fisher said the School Resource Officer, who came from the police department, is fully trained with the lifesaving tool and it’s there just in case the unthinkable happens.

“I think the age group is a younger age group. But our concern also is if the parents are doing drugs and the children happened to get into it, then we have Narcan that can help them as well. I want the parents to feel that we are open. If there's anything that we can do to help the kids, we will. We're just a phone call away, they can message us or if they're having problems, we want them to reach out to us so we can help.” 

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