Officer Jon Adkins is well known for his work as a school resource officer in the Newton elementary schools, a passion that recently earned him the highest certification given by the National Association of School Resource Officers.
Adkins is now a National School Resource Officer Practitioner, a designation awarded to officers who complete both basic and advanced SRO training, along with attending a national safety conference and undergoing more than 160 hours of specialty training.
"I have been lucky enough to go to those trainings and succeed," Adkins said.
Adkins served with the National Guard before joining the Newton Police Department 11 years ago. In 2013, he started his role as a school resource officer for the city's six elementary schools.
"I wanted to do the best I could," Adkins said. "I wanted to put the program on the map and do the best thing for the community and the kids."
His job is not to enforce discipline in the classroom, but to provide security for the school and to connect with students.
"One of my main goals is to build relationships with youngsters so that, as they get older, they have that respect for law enforcement as a career and understand that we're here to help," Adkins said.
That is the reason he wears a full police uniform every day he works and spends time explaining the tools he carries to students.
"I want them to see the uniform every day to know that Officer Jon wears that and he's cool, he's nice and they're safe so that when my partner, who is in the same uniform, shows up at 2 a.m. waking them up, they look up and are not instantly in fear," Adkins said.
Adkins goes to a different elementary school every morning to high-five the children entering the building. He also provides security at sporting events and gives presentations on topics such as bike safety and citizenship.
"I speak at assemblies and participate in cup-stacking competitions," Adkins laughed.
His job also has its challenges — especially when a child is the victim of a crime.
"I work a lot of child abuse and child sex crimes," Adkins said. "If it happens during the school year and they're in pre-K to fourth grade, it's my responsibility to handle those cases. ... My least favorite part of the job is (doing) forensic interviews of kids, but it's a necessity and a lot of those kids feel comfortable with me because they know who I am."
Adkins relies on fellow SROs Gary Littlejohn and Brian Salmans for their expertise in some cases, noting they all have specialized training.
"Littlejohn and Salmans are really good at what they do," Adkins said. "I'm proud of our department and our SRO program."
Adkins is the current vice president of the Kansas Juvenile Officers Association, an organization made up of SRO and DARE officers across the state. When his current term expires, Adkins will serve as KJOA president for two years.
Being involved in KJOA gives him an opportunity to express his opinions and effect change, Adkins pointed out. He plans KJOA's annual weeklong conference to bring in speakers from across the country to talk, train and network together with more than 100 attendees.
"I bring back a lot of the stuff I learn throughout the week," Adkins said. "It's good to get that training and be a part of that at the state level."
Summer break may give students time off, but Adkins spends his days as part of Newton's bike patrol, having earned certification from the International Police Mountain Bike Association.
As a bicycle officer, Adkins spends his 10-hour shift going all over the city, but focuses on Sand Creek bike path and Newton's parks.
"I'm averaging 21 miles per day," Adkins said. "It's fun; it keeps me in shape."
In June, Adkins logged 190 miles and over 200 citizen contacts.
"I'll stop at local businesses and hang out, talk to the folks there and drink some water and relax a little bit," Adkins said.
In September 2018, he tried out for the sniper position on the Harvey County Emergency Response Team.
"Those guys are phenomenal and supported me through all the training to get up to the point of being ready, mentally and physically, to get through it," Adkins said.
To qualify for the sniper position, he had to shoot with a sniper rifle, do a physical agility test and go through an interview panel. He also attended SWAT and sniper trainings, coming first in his class in the latter.
"Both are very intense trainings," Adkins said. "I was ready to put forth 100 percent of (my) effort into the team."
Adkins was accepted for the sniper position, adding that role to his work as a designated marksman, a firearms instructor and an armorer for Newton Police Department.
"I fix our guns and teach new officers how to shoot, along with a couple other officers," Adkins said.
Adkins also serves on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Head Start Policy Council in Harvey County, as well as being the defensive coach for Newton High School football.
"I'm glad to be part of the Newton Police Department and the school district," Adkins said. "The support from the school district and the department is awesome."
Adkins is also quick to credit his wife, Desi, for all her contributions assisting him in his career, which he hopes will eventually include teaching SRO courses across the country.
"Chad Gay spent his whole career in the schools, essentially, is a very well-respected law enforcement officer in the community and I want to follow in his footsteps," Adkins said. "I want people to know who I am — for good reasons — and that I left a legacy of community and working hard."