Kadance Nickmeyer, a student at Matanzas High School, entered and won an essay contest through her Criminal Justice class, devoting her essay to pragmatic ways ways schools, the community at large and law enforcement can build mutual trust in a difficult age. The full original essay follows (with minor stylistic editing for consistency and clarity.) Nickmeyer won “A Day with the Sheriff,” essentially shadowing Sheriff Rick Staly, who spoke extremely highly of her in a brief conversation today. (The sheriff picked her as the winner out of five contestants shortlisted by Cmdr. Jason Neat).
The April 21 shift included a visit to three schools for the distribution of the sheriff’s monthly “Great Kids Awards,” but also police work that included the arrest of an alleged car thief, a raid and the busting of a drug house. Details of that day appear below the essay as narrated in a sheriff’s release issued today. The Sheriff’s Office provided the text of Nickmeyer’s essay.
By Kadance Nickmeyer
Growing up, my Dad always made me watch “The Andy Griffith Show.” I remember it told the story of a “simpler” time when the community and law enforcement effortlessly worked together to improve community safety. Whether it was an accurate example of what small town America was like, I’m not sure. What I do know is that law enforcement leaders, from sheriffs and police officers to beat cops, must recognize the importance of community relations.
Relationships take time and effort to mature. If we wait too long to bridge this gap between law enforcement and the community, it might be too late. In order to bridge this gap, there needs to be improvements from both the community and law enforcement. We can start with building ties with community youth, connecting law enforcement agencies with the community and foster healthy interactions with the community.
We can start off by establishing ties with community youth. Schools are a remarkable place to develop quality relationships with the community. A huge part of our schools are the School Resource Deputies, or SRDs. They not only do their best to keep our school a safe learning environment, but they also act as a support system. Deputies engage students around campus, act as mentors to at-risk students, and are guest presenters in the classroom.
Some deputies have volunteered as assistant coaches in sports programs. The deputies are usually present for significant moments like sporting events, homecoming, prom and graduation. This is the closest relationship that the vast majority of the student body and staff will ever have with a law enforcement officer. Stop and think about that for a moment. Let that really sink in. For the majority, maybe 95 percent of the people at the school, this is the closest relationship they will ever have with a law enforcement officer.
Their trust, or lack thereof, in police officers is going to be shaped by the way the SRD engages them and their peers. SRDs have a huge responsibility and opportunity to shape attitudes towards law enforcement. As any great SRD already knows, these deputies smile, laugh, actively listen and do the extra work to provide high-quality policing services to the school community.
Another great way to bridge the gap in our community is connecting law enforcement to the community. Most of the time, citizens only interact with law enforcement during personal tragedy or as a result of traffic crashes. None of these events provide an opportunity for law enforcement to be considered members of the community. Special events provide a neutral place for the community to be free from negative emotions and engage with the police.
If law enforcement attends “special events,” it helps establish a caring characteristic with law enforcement which can increase the level of respect the community has for its policing agency. That doesn’t mean using these events as “getting the hours” details, but to also attend them off duty as well with your family. It projects an image of genuine involvement with the community.
Lastly, we can establish healthy interactions. Law enforcement agency special events serve as a great opportunity to build trust with the community. This serves as an opportunity to show the community that they are integral to their community too but, as a community, we also need to respect our law enforcement.
Social media is another opportunity to engage. Countless law enforcement organizations have jumped on the social media bandwagon, recognizing its significance. The question is whether it is being used strategically or haphazardly. I have viewed a variety of police agencies’ social media pages and seen a spectrum of inconsistent, dry posts, to inappropriately funny posts, to consistent and professional posts. These agencies should use the medium to tell their organization’s story, with discretion. Risk managers and information services personnel should be involved in the process to ensure that posts are consistent with law and policy. They should also include community members’ opinions by letting them take part in decisions–like naming K-9 units and the types of events that may be held in the community.
Building trusting relationships with the community is a critical task that all law enforcement leaders, from chiefs and sheriffs to beat officers, must make a priority. If Sheriff Andy Griffith was organizing this effort, I believe he would have Aunt Bee whip up a potluck and gather the community around food and conversation. He would listen and lead the conversation to better understand each other. He would remind Deputy Fife of the importance of diligently performing our tasks as law enforcement officers every single day.
Since Sheriff Griffith is not here, it is up to you and me. We are the solution.
Every day we have the opportunity to transform public perception through our consistent, professional service. Law enforcement’s mission is to protect our county and its residents and visitors at a reasonable cost, to make sure that gangs and illegal drug use are eliminated, to constantly work at lowering the crime rate, to protect our schools and children, and to maintain community-oriented policing. Let’s include supporting the community in that mission.
The Sheriff’s Office issued this release about Kadance Nickmeyer earlier today, titled “Matanzas High School Essay Contest Winner Spends a Day with the Sheriff.”
“I don’t know how she does it all. I thought I work long hours,” said Sheriff Rick Staly after spending the day with Kadance Nickmeyer. Nickmeyer is a very busy 11th grader. She was in Jacksonville over the weekend emceeing a “Women of Distinction” event with more than 2,000 in attendance. She recently won the Girl Scouts Gold Award for creating a Domestic Violence website, which is the highest achievement you can receive and is the equivalent to an Eagle Scout. She plays basketball, swims, and runs track. When she graduates she wants to be a fighter pilot in the Air Force. Today, she was Sheriff.
Nickmeyer entered a contest through her Criminal Justice Class, “Win a Day with the Sheriff.” She wrote about how law enforcement are the key building blocks of a community, and how important it is for officers to have good relationships with the people in the neighborhoods they work in. Commander Jason Neat, in charge of the Youth Services Section, narrowed the essay contest down to five finalists. Sheriff Staly picked Nickmeyer after reviewing all the finalist’s essays.
Nickmeyer and Sheriff Staly started the day off at Flagler Palm Coast High School, where they handed out “Great Kids” awards. In the process they joined deputies staking out a stolen car and joined in the arrest of the driver. After spending the morning traveling to two other schools and helping with the stolen car and a quick lunch it was time to meet up with deputies and the SWAT team for a drug raid briefing. Sheriff Staly and his team raided a home in Bunnell, ultimately finding trafficking amounts of Fentanyl, a variety of pills and Heroin. Nickmeyer said that by far, this was the most exciting part of her day. After a successful raid it was time to go to the District 2 Office in Palm Coast to award volunteers with Presidential awards for their volunteerism and then head back to the Justice Center to see the newest round of Flagler County Sheriff’s Office employees getting sworn in and a retirement celebration.
Nickmeyer then met with local media at the end of her day before leaving to take her mom, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, to an appointment. “Kadance truly does it all. She is a very mature kid. I
don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone her age who has their life completely planned out. I’m excited to have her in our community and can’t wait to see what she does in life. She’s going to go on to do big things,” said Sheriff Staly.
This was the first year for Flagler County Sheriff’s Office “Win a Day with the Sheriff” contest. Sheriff Staly is looking forward to doing the same contest next year and is excited to see who participates.