SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Springfield Police Department teamed up with Springfield Public Schools for “SPD in PE.”

Through this initiative, Springfield police officers joined middle school students during their physical education (PE) classes.

Four officers joined in the gym class this week.

“I think it is a good opportunity to see us in a different light,” said Sgt. Michael Ramsey with SPD’s communication services department. “We can show up and have fun. I think it’s good for the kids to see us not in a uniform. Some of them even ask us, like, ‘Are you a real police officer?'” 

Officers are working with 7th grade classes at Pipkin Middle School for this round of the program.

“When you’re breaking down those barriers, I think it can’t do anything but be positive,” said Ramsey.

Officers visit each PE class four times with varying curriculum during each visit. At the start of each class, officers participate in warm-up activities that encourage fun and connection with the students then participate in the class’s scheduled curriculum for the day.

Sgt. Ramsey tells OzarksFirst that by participating in PE, the kids get to know the officers outside of the uniform.

“When you have the ability to build a relationship where you’re not in your normal role, I think it’s more positive because they will remember our faces and we’ll remember them too,” Ramsey said.

Brad Brummel is the coordinator of health and physical education for Springfield Public Schools. He says these classes help humanize the officers.

“Unfortunately, a lot of times our first interaction with law enforcement can be a negative one or an intimidating one,” Brummel said. “It’s important early to provide opportunities for them to connect and humanize our local law enforcement because they are real people.”

“SPD in PE has been well-received by our officers and the students at SPS,” said Chief Paul Williams. “I am proud of the commitment of our officers to be positive role models for these young people.”

SPS chose 7th grade as the target class because they say that’s when kids begin to experiment with more risky behaviors. The hope is SPD in PE will create connections before those behaviors begin.

“In the sports and PE world we call it sweat equity,” Brummel said. “So as they move together, as they sweat together, they’re bonding and they’re in there making, I hope, lasting relationships.”

‘SPD in PE’ was last hosted at Cherokee and Jarett Middle Schools in the 2019-2020 school year but has since been on hiatus following the COVID-19 pandemic.