Officer Jon Adkins of the Newton Police Department is well known for standing outside an elementary school in Newton at 7:30 a.m each day, welcoming each student with a high-five as they enter.
"To me, that's important," Adkins said. "I see the most kids that you can see in a day at the beginning and sometimes that's the hardest time of the day for kids."
The Kansas Juvenile Officers Association recently honored Officer Jon Adkins of the Newton Police Department with the KSJOA President's Award.
"It was obvious he is involved in the community," said KSJOA President Derrick Ploutz, who also serves as the undersheriff of Haskell County.
"Adkins is a dynamic and engaged officer who truly cares about the youth of our community," stated Lt. Bryan Hall in his nomination letter.
As a school resource officer, Adkins patrols five elementary schools and one preschool in the Newton school district.
"Those are my responsibilities — to handle the cases that come from there, to make sure they have everything they need from an SRO," Adkins said.
Adkins has been an SRO for three years and believes having a continuous presence in the schools gives the children confidence in his commitment to their safety.
"That consistency, being able to count on me to be there, helps build that rapport," Adkins said. "Our main goal is to make kids feel comfortable with not just me as a person, but with all police. I explain that I am just like my friends driving in patrol cars all around town or who stop your mommy and daddy."
That is why he wears his full uniform and gear as he walks the halls and goes into classrooms when invited to talk.
"If somebody asks me to come in and speak or to do an activity as a reward, I put it in my phone and then it's done — I make sure I'm there," Adkins said.
When children ask him questions about why he carries a gun or if he has ever arrested someone, Adkins uses the opportunity to be truthful and teach them about the role of law enforcement in the community.
"I never lie," Adkins said. "I try not to hold anything back, because ultimately they're going to find out, one way or the other."
Adkins watches the students and contacts social workers or school staff when he sees something that needs to be addressed.
"That's probably the scariest part of the job — fear of failure, not for myself but for the kids," Adkins said. "I try my very hardest, regardless of how busy I am ...to do due diligence with every one."
Certified in ChildFirst forensic interviewing, Adkins has had to deal with cases of child abuse.
"It's the worst part about my job," Adkins said. "It's my least favorite part, but it has to be done."
Adkins said his love for the job comes from the qualities he saw modeled in other SROs like Chris Carter, Chad Gay and Randy Jordan.
"All those guys had been a part of my life at some point growing up as SROs and the way they treated people and the way they handled themselves led me to think, 'man, that would be really cool,'" Adkins said.
The effort it takes to nurture those relationships are supplemented by the work of the school administration and staff.
"What I do is little compared to what teachers and social workers deal with," Adkins said. "I'm very humbled and happy to receive the award and the recognition, but I couldn't do what I do if it wasn't for them."
It is his hope that the relationships he and other SROs form with children will help prevent them from turning to crime.
"Hopefully, we can keep those kids on the right path," Adkins said.
Besides his work as an SRO, Adkins serves on the board of Harvey County's Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, coaches high school football and middle school track and field, is a member of the Harvey County Head Start Policy Council and is a representative on the KSJOA board. He also spearheaded initiatives to provide free bicycle helmets and passed out glow sticks to children at Halloween so that they would be more visible to drivers.
"I have a lot of things that require my time and effort and I couldn't do it without my wife," Adkins said. "She supports me 100 percent. There would be a lot of times I would have to say no if it wasn't for her, so I'm glad I don't have to."
Adkins also credits the Newton Police Department for their support.
"It's such a good department of young, strong, smart officers and our command staff is great," Adkins said. "I think that, really, I wouldn't have the ability to do what I do without the guys on the road and my command staff."