When a police officer can readily call up your cellphone number and send you a text message, is that a good thing? According to Perth County OPP Constable Julie Towton, it’s how things should be in an ever-changing environment of communications technology.
Towton, School Resource Officer at St. Marys DCVI, may have a bit more time on her hands now that classes have broken for the summer holidays. But she’s certainly finding lots of ways to keep busy.
Friday, June 28, she gave a talk about communications technology — computers, iPads and smartphones — to a group of senior citizens as part of the Friendship Centre’s Lunch and Learn series. And speaking to the Journal Argus following the talk, she noted she’ll soon be zipping around town on an OPP bicycle.
The provincial force recently required that all officers on bike patrol take a new three-day course. Towton has completed that course and expects to on the bike soon.
Mostly, however, the OPP officer will be working to maintain and enhance the relationships she has built up while working at DCVI as the school resource officer. And part of that will be keeping in touch — almost exclusively by text message — with the students and parents she has encountered during her two years of high school service.
“Generally, if I’ve had an interaction with (a student) of any significance during the school year, they know how to get hold of me,” Towton explained. They have her cellphone number for texting; and she has theirs.
“But I would say I text parents even more often than students might text me,” she added. “And they will text me back.”
She says few people want to take the time any more to answer telephone messages, or leave telephone messages, or even work through the reception service that you get when you place a call to the Perth County detachment’s Sebringville-based office. They want instant response. And texting provides that.
And even if they called the detachment, there might be some confusion before they actually get in touch with her. “People don’t know my last name. They just know me as Officer Julie.”
She believes her role has been invaluable as an almost constant presence at DCVI.
“If I’m not there, the police might know the one kid who has the loud muffler. But when I’m in the school, I find out about so many of the other things that are going on. I find out about who’s chronically late, I find out who’s cutting, I find out about drugs, about bullying.”
If she can provide that background to her fellow officers, it makes things much easier. “That stuff is the same stuff that my partners are going to need to know in two years.”
She adds that “it’s not all drugs. People assume that. But a lot of it is mental health issues, or making sure that people talk to the right person at the right time.” As a resource person, she can point kids in the right direction.
“It’s a great program. I’ve seen it be effective,” she said.