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Police forming bonds with students at Palm Beach Gardens elementary

Police forming bonds with students at Palm Beach Gardens elementary
Posted at 11:59 PM, Aug 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-14 11:13:40-05

Following the Parkland school shooting, the state has invested more effort and money into school resource officers.

And those SROs are now entering their first school year in a post-Parkland school environment.

Palm Beach County Schools invited WPTV's Alanna Quillen to watch a Palm Beach Gardens officer on his latest assignment this school year at Palm Beach Gardens Elementary School.

Sergeant Javier Garcia starts off by greeting little ones at 7:30 each morning.

“Number one question I get, do you play Fortnite?” he joked. “Kids love us."

Garcia stands at the entrance of the school, handing out high fives, smiles and words of encouragement to students.

“He’s really nice!” said fourth grader Jazmyn Holmes.

“I think he’s pretty cool because he keeps us safe," said second grade student Johnny Archimede.

On Thursday morning, he made a special appearance on the morning announcements. After that, he canvassed the hallways and checked every single outside door to make sure it’s locked.

“Now all the schools do have fencing, single point entries, cameras out front, throughout the campuses -- officers now at each campus," he said.

Garcia talked about possible scenarios he and other school resource officers must now prepare for.

“We go through rigorous training throughout the year, regarding active shooters, or hostage take overs - or any of the crazy calls that you see out in the world," Garcia said.

But the relationships he builds with students are still just as important.

“This rapport we’re building with these kids and these teachers, it’s going to last a lifetime," Garcia said.

And his new friends seem to agree.

“If you have trust with someone, you wouldn’t be scared to tell them how you feel," said fifth grader Zoe Zwart.

“The kids and the police officers can make big relationships," said fourth grader Mikayla Evans.

“If there’s ever something wrong around campus, he’s there for us," said third grader Angelina Archimede.

Garcia says this time is crucial before these students enter middle school and high school.

“It all starts here, it starts in elementary school," he said.

“At elementary age, they’re sponges. And this is the time that me as a police officer, I really have to teach them that they can trust us," he said.

Palm Beach Gardens police have officers stationed at every school in the city. That's in addition to the more than 100 officers with the school district's police department deployed at schools across the county.