Making a connection: Police giving backpacks to kids in need

By handing out more than 200 backpacks filled with school supplies, local police officers are hoping to show children that they want to help them.

The Johnson County Fraternal Order of Police typically donates to local school supply drives organized by the United Way but this year wanted to do something different.

The goal was to make connections with students on their own, and hopefully build relationships between officers and kids.

So the organization used money they raise each year to buy backpacks and stuff them with school supplies, from notebooks and folders to crayons and pencils. And then each of the county’s 212 full-time police officers at all 10 police departments got one of those bags, said Randy Werden, vice president of the Johnson County FOP and Johnson County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy.

Now, those officers will be in charge of getting the backpacks to students whose families may not be able to afford to get them all the supplies they need for school, Werden said.

Some officers already know the families who will benefit most from the supplies, and others are working with their local schools to find them, he said.

And officials hope that personal interaction between the officer and the student will stick with those children and their families, he said.

“This allows officers to make a connection with individual kids,” he said.

“We are always trying to show kids that police aren’t bad guys,” he said.

The program also is a way for police to thank the community that has shown them so much support, especially in recent months after police were shot in other communities around the country, Werden said. Each backpack also has a note saying how much local police appreciate that support.

“The community has been great to law enforcement, and this is just a way to show our appreciation,” he said.

Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2718.