Little Falls Police Kickstart LEAD Program in Little Falls Schools

By Tina Pappas

 

The Little Falls Police Department is spearheading this year’s Law Enforcement Against Drugs and Violence (LEAD) program at Little Falls School No. 1 and No. 3 in the Little Falls School District.

The program, which is led by Cpl. Jon Vanak, allows law enforcement to partner with the school district in order to educate students on varying topics, such as drug usage, violence and bullying. It also aims to foster lasting relationships between students and the officers who stop by throughout the classrooms.

According to Vanak, the LFPD is in its fifth year of running the program after a hiatus last year due to the pandemic.

“We took a year off from running this program due to COVID-19, but now we’re back,” said Vanak, who instructs the program. “The big component for us is the interaction with the kids because it definitely builds a better rapport with them when the officers and I see them out and about around town. We are looking forward to another successful year!

Deputy Chief of Police Bryan Prall, agreed and added that the LFPD is making the commitment as an agency to give full support to the 11-week program throughout all the divisions within the police department.

“My goal at the end of the program is to ensure that every officer makes an appearance, so every third-grader and seventh-grader has the opportunity to meet each and every police officer who works here,” he explained. “And more importantly, every officer gets to meet every student because it definitely opens up a dialogue between the kids and the police officers.”

Prall added that programs such as LEAD are especially important nowadays in order to dispel any myths about the role of police within the community. Officers visit School No. 1, which houses fifth through eighth grades and School No. 3, which houses third and fourth grades.

“Now that we’re in 2022, it’s very important for us to break down misconceptions about police,” he explained. “Our officers visit both schools during two different days. Jon Vanak is our full-time instructor of the program and our other officers accompany him to the schools so that they have a better understanding of the program and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Prall also said his goal is to expand the program and add more officers to it in the future.

“One of the things I’m looking forward to is implementing more good will towards the community and our schools,” he further added. “This is among the things I said I would try to accomplish when I took on this new job.”

 

 

Photo courtesy of the Little Falls Police Department

 

 

Pictured is Cpl. Jon Vanak speaking to students in Little Falls as part of the Law Enforcement Against Drugs and Violence (LEAD) program. 

 

 

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