By Luke Pendley
Three years ago David Lanman’s collection of police patches on his wall caught the eye of his students. Lanman is the SkillsUSA coordinator at Wylie East High School.
This attention sparked an idea for the teacher. Lanman decided to create a Tribute to Texas Sheriff’s wall, where all of his students are required to write two letters of inquiry, which are then sent to a county sheriff department in the state of Texas.
“All career and technical education (CTE) classes are required to have a pre-employment unit and I thought this would be a great training tool and aid for the students. I refer to it once or twice a week, plus it’s an eye catcher for people entering the classroom,” Lanman said.
In their letters, students ask each sheriff’s department the specific requirements to be an officer in that county. In addition, they inquire about the pay scale and then tell them about the wall project going on at the school. The students will ask the county sheriff to send in a patch which will then be positioned on the respective county’s spot on the Texas map in the classroom.
“The majority of the sheriffs actually take the time to write back to the student and then send in their patch,” Lanman said.
This is the third year for this project; there are now roughly 60 patches out of the 254 counties in Texas. Patches are added to the map each year and when students receive a patch they write their name on the back of the patch, along with the year it was received, so they are able to return to the classroom and see which patches they acquired. Once all the counties are collected, the next step is to draw the outline of the United States and get all of the state police patches on the wall in addition to the county patches of Texas.
Students have found that every police department has different qualifications for employment. The standard requirement is that applicants be 21 years or older, have a clean criminal background and a high school diploma though most county offices require additional skills to be a sheriff.
“This gives the students a perspective of what law enforcement is really about. Not just driving fast and wrestling guys,” the coordinator said.