Crossing the Bridge: Arlington Police Officers Build Trust and Partnerships

On the bridge, students tell Officer Marissa Sandham about their day and she reminds them to walk safely and watch out for one another.
Photo Credit: Cheryel Carpenter

The 3400 block of Sherry Street is where the relationships grew.

Last summer, neighbors came together to paint a mural to cover up unsightly graffiti underneath a bridge. Everyone pitched in to help, including Arlington police officers, a Home Depot and a real estate firm who donated the paint, brushes and rollers.

The bridge is a well-traveled route for  Lynn Hale Elementary School students, some as young as six years old.  Some walk, others ride their bikes while the smaller ones run to keep up.

School Principal Claudia Morales Herrera said this was not always the safest route for her students.

At dismissal time, there were calls from parents and neighbors reporting children walking in the street, shoving and bullying at the bridge, she said.

“Conflict was brought into the school,” the principal said. “I asked APD to please help us.”

East District Police Lieutenant Becki Brandenburg, Sergeants Robert Walsh and JaNae Powell answered the call.  The lieutenant began assigning patrol officers to the bridge at 3:30 p.m.

Officers were already tutoring. At the school, more began showing up at events like the Daddy Daughter Dance and Multicultural Night. There was an increased presence of officers at neigh- borhood watch meetings.

Volunteers painted a colorful mural last summer to cover up graffiti near Hale Elementary School.
Photo Credit: Cheryel Carpenter

The principal says officer involvement has translated into a more positive environment in the classroom.  This year, the Title 1 campus earned Texas Education Agency distinctions in five of six academic performance areas and an education-focused nonprofit ranked them as a top performing school in Tarrant County.

“If we cannot address the social and emotional behaviors of a child, we can’t get to the academics,” the principal said. “The Arlington Police Department has helped us do that.”

“These were the same kids who referred to officers as ‘The Po-Po,’ people to be afraid of,” she said.

“Today, these students run to officers, give them high fives … They invite them to their activities. They ask about them when they’re not here.”

What started as a beautification project in a concrete channel under a bridge has evolved into something really great for this school, says Lt. Brandenburg.

In a presentation this spring, the Arlington Police Department named this partnership, “The Bridge Kids.”