A Conway Police Department School Resource Officer is driving around in style after a vehicle reboot.
Officer Chuck Townsend can be seen behind the wheel of a 2010 Jeep Wrangler decked out in designs created by the hands of Conway High School students.
The idea started with police chief Jody Spradlin.
Spradlin said when he started at CPD back in the 1990s with the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program, DARE officers would decorate the big black vans as a way to break the ice with the students.
“Just something to attract kids to police officers,” he said.
As the DARE program started fading out among schools across the nation, the SRO unit became more popular.
“SRO is where it’s at right now,” Spradlin said.
When he was a major, he went to his chief and presented an idea to him.
“My idea was to always take a drug-seized vehicle, something unique, whether it was a [Chevy] Camaro or [Chevy] Corvette, something that would really stand out and you just don’t see too many Camaros and Corvettes, but we do see quite a few vehicles,” Spradlin said.
So when the narcotics division seized the jeep in November 2016 from a drug dealer, Spradlin jumped on the idea to turn it around.
To get it outfitted with the proper police equipment, Spradlin said he needed money. He approached the Conway City Council and received $12,100 through the asset forfeiture account — not tax payers — which is “basically cash proceeds” that have been taken from drug dealers.
“So 100 percent of it is paid for by drug dealers, so we really like that,” he said. “When I presented the idea to [the city council] … 100 percent positive reaction. They know what our school resource program is about. It’s probably one of the biggest highlights in our department.”
Townsend said when the idea to get the school involved was suggested they took it to Wayne Pendley, Conway High School collision tech teacher, and told him they wanted to incorporate some ideas from the students into the designs and make it a joint effort.
Pendley passed out jeep coloring sheets and 14 students turned in varied drawings focused around the CPD and Wampus Cat theme.
“It’s a good balance of both,” Townsend said.
He said they pulled concepts from several of the submissions and presented those to Master’s Touch Designs.
The final design for the jeep consisted of a Wampus Cat, scratch marks, base of blue paint, “student resource officer” on the side and “drug seized” written on the back and cool wheels.
“So many kids have approached me just because of the jeep,” Townsend said. “There’s a lot of students with jeeps on campus. It’s popular.”
The new addition, he said, gives students a reason to come talk to the SROs.
“I think the district is just thrilled to have another tool,” Communication Specialist Heather Kendrick said. “First of all, we love the partnership that the students got to have [in it]. But, [it’s] just another way for the SROs to build these relationships with the kids.”
Kendrick, whose office in located in the administration building next to the high school, said she can see the jeep parked out her window.
“It’s such a talking point,” she said. “I love that it’s just one more creative way and that’s what good teachers do, and good kid professionals do, is they’re constantly looking for a way to stay current and stay relative with students, and I love that they do that.”