The IMPD Community Engagement & Outreach Bureau brought police horses and ate lunch with IPS School #43 students. (Photos/Jade Jackson)

Once a semester, the IMPD Community Engagement & Outreach Bureau goes to IPS School 43 located at 40th & Capital Avenue to eat lunch and chat with 350 students.

Commander Ida Williams said this is their second year doing the Lunch Buddies program with IPS School #43.

“At the end of the day our goal is to build positive relationships with our young people. We want them to know that the police are here to protect them,” Williams said.

“We spend the lunch period with K through 8 grade and throughout the time officers are just engaging with them and answering their questions. It’s important because often times, when they see police either in their neighborhood or other places, it’s not always for a positive reason.”

Along with having an officer at each lunch table, the bureau brought over their police horses after lunch for the kids to see and pet with.

Officer Iris Ferris is a facilitator for IMPD Cares, a youth mentorship group housed inside IPS School #43. She oversees girls while another officer caters to the boys.

Ferris feels it is even more important that students see officers often beyond the Lunch Buddies program.

“It’s challenging because I only see them for a specific amount of time throughout the week. So, before they go into their other environments, I have a certain window to make an impact,” Ferris said.

“We definitely don’t want a narrative out there that the police are just for when bad things happen though. We are public servants, so this is just a fun way for us to connect even more.”

Principal Crishell Sam said Lunch Buddies is a great opportunity for our students to see that officers are personable and people that they can relate to who care about their wellbeing.

“Not just when something is happening but when it’s just a good day to just come in and be able to support students,” Sam said. “They’re able to take pictures with them to eat lunch and just have a chat and chew so to speak when they’re in the cafeteria.”

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at (317) 762-7853 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON.