UTA police teach safety to Liberty kindergartners
Liberty kindergartners learn about police dog Bobbie, who partners with officer Chad Ziegenhorn to make TRAX safe for passengers. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
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By Julie Slama | firstname.lastname@example.org
It may have seemed like a fun day for Liberty elementary students—coloring with Utah Transit Authority police, eating pizza and cupcakes with them, then petting Bobbie, their explosives detection dog.
But it was more than that.
“Community outreach is important, but we’re here to make sure that the boys and girls understand how to cross railroad tracks safely with or without Mom or Dad,” said UTA Police Lt. Alex Blauer on Sept. 30. “We also want to put a friendly face on police officers and let them know we are here to help. We want to build relationships with these students, their brothers and sisters and families.”
This is the first outreach program UTA police have performed, but hope to reach other schools, especially those located by TRAX.
“Transit officers are unique. We’re a city in motion, not set by boundaries. So we’re hoping to serve those people who not only use our trains on a regular basis, but to educate those who are nearby,” he said.
As part of Operation Lifesaver, an outreach Union Pacific program, UTA police went over a train safety coloring book with students and also gave them a junior police badge and safety bracelet.
“We wanted to be engaged with the students so when they may see us on a train or at a crossing, they may remember our visit and won’t be scared,” Blauer said.
Kindergarten teacher Alysia McIntosh said her all-day kindergartners were excited about the presentation.
“It’s been awesome for our kids,” she said. “Many of them cross TRAX to go home, so they now know where to cross or stand on a platform if they ride TRAX. It’s been great for them to go over safety rules and something we can easily review.”
Principal Jill Burnside said UTA police approached her about coming to the school where about one quarter of the students need to cross TRAX rails when they walk to school.
“They’re a valuable resource who took the initiative to make sure our students learned how to be safe around TRAX,” she said. “They’re amazing and showed true generosity.”
A highlight for many students was seeing the German shorthaired pointer, Bobbie, who’s partner-handler, officer Chad Ziegenhorn, brought the dog with him to the force. The seven-year-old dog was originally with the Marine Corps before partnering with Ziegenhorn and has been trained to be on alert for explosives.
“He hasn’t been trained to bite, so he’s able to interact with the students and be a pet and one of the family at home,” Ziegenhorn said. “It’s good that the students learn not all police dogs are fierce.”
Ziegenhorn told the kindergartners that “Bobbie rides around in the trains with me to keep you safe. He looks for bombs and guns and other things. What he really likes to search for is a ball so he could spend hours doing that. It’s fun for him.”
Five-year-old Logan Eyre said that he liked when the dog came to the class.
“We could pet him,” he said. “I want a dog and I want to be a policeman with my dog. I learned about safety rules. I learned to stand behind the white line (on the platform) to be safe.”