Behind the Badge: Columbus police officers build community bonds with ‘homework with a cop’

COLUMBUS, Ind.— On Monday and Tuesday afternoons, a group of Columbus police officers put down their radios and handcuffs and pick up text books and board games.

The officers, usually the same three, participate in Columbus Police Department’s “homework with a cop” program. They meet either at the Pence Apartments office, or the Candlelight Village office, and help with homework, play games, and donate their time to the kids of the community.

“Sometimes play basketball afterwards, just kind of depends on the weather,” Officer John Velten said.

While the focus of the program is based around helping with homework, the officers say the program is more about building relationships and trust within the community.

“I’ve seen a lot of the kids grow up and it’s been fun to see them grow as kids and as students, and to see them appreciate law enforcement for what we really are. We’re just people, we’re just like them, we’re just people who wear a badge,” Velten said.

Their strategy seems to be working.

“I like that the cops come out of their way to help us with homework,” program participant Bryson Tabor said.

“It makes me feel great that the local police department has that much interest in the youth,” Kim Hayden said.

The homework with a cop program has been running since 2013. While Velten jokes he and the other officer’s typical expertise in homework doesn’t extend past the fifth grade, he says the program is open to anyone.