Fresno police officer teaching 90+ students as part of new program

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Local law enforcement is joining forces with a local school to launch a hands-on program designed to build bridges with students in high crime areas.

Students at Birney Elementary School in Central Fresno are getting a unique opportunity to have classes with a cop.

The Fresno Police Department and Fresno County Office of Education have partnered together to provide the pilot program. The curriculum is geared toward 6th-grade students and developed specifically for police officers to teach the program.

Officer Lindsay Dozier is a 24-year veteran of the department. She was hand-selected to lead more than 90 students.

"It's important that we build relationships at that sixth-grade level," Officer Dozier said. "Here, they are starting to make their minds up about people and things and places. They need to know that we are on their team, that we are not there because we have to be there, but we are there because we care about them."

The mission of this program is to bring these students and police officers together in a positive environment.

The program is called P.I.V.O.T., or Providing Individuals Valuable Opportunities Today. Birney Elementary School's sixth-grade teacher, Robert Garcia, says that's exactly what they are doing -- empowering students to pivot and make better choices.

"The bottom line is they know that someone is there for them. There's going to be someone there that not only cares for them, but that's going to encourage them to go ahead and be the best that they can be," Garcia said.

The program launched last week, but Officer Dozier has been visiting the school since the Fall.

The pre-teens are learning about social media, gangs, drugs, guns, mental health, bullying, and resiliency.

Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama said the elementary school is located in a high crime area.

He says staffing is low, so assigning an office to this task is a difficult but necessary investment.

The Chief said it's necessary for the students to have more positive interactions with law enforcement.

"So we have to work hard to change that image, and it's important that we are visible. We are there as mentors, as friends, as people who are going to provide safety for those kids," Chief Balderrama said.

School officials and authorities say the goal is to expand the pilot program to multiple elementary schools within Fresno County.
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