CRESTVIEW — Unobserved, one of the “children” crossing Redstone Avenue East on Harry Tomlin’s watch purposefully crossed the street outside the pedestrian crosswalk white lines.
But that’s not going to happen again.
After a gentle correction from Crestview Police Officer Wanda Hulion, and another practice run, Tomlin knows to watch for kids testing his authority as a school crossing guard.
Tomlin and four other Crestview Police Citizens Academy alumni spent their Saturday morning training under Hulion and Officer Sam Kimmons to become certified crossing guards.
After passing a background check, using Florida School Crossing Guard training guidelines, the volunteers completed a three-hour classroom session followed by a written exam.
The class then moved to a real school zone on Redstone Avenue for practical training and further testing.
Though traffic was light, the few passing cars dutifully stopped in all directions when the trainees took turns commanding the crosswalk while the others portrayed students.
“Some kids will try to push your buttons,” Hulion cautioned the volunteers, who then promptly unleashed their inner child to try to distract their colleagues taking turns acting as crossing guards.
“Hey look, it’s Santa Claus!” alumni association vice president Ed Corbett called out as the white-bearded Dennis Thibeau took his turn.
When school crossing guards were cut from the police budget in 2013, police officers assumed the responsibility. The five volunteers will free officers to return to patrol duties, Hulion said.
“If a citizen guard is working the crosswalk, that frees me up to write tickets and do traffic enforcement,” she said.
“Volunteers are the lifeblood of this city,” academy alumna Dianne Tomlin said.
The police department will equip each crossing guard with a safety vest, a whistle and a “stop” sign paddle.
The volunteers will also provide extra eyes and ears for the police department.
“If these guys get out there and see something that’s a concern, they can call it in to us,” Hulion said, including crosswalk hazards such as debris or, more seriously, people acting suspiciously.
“The kids are our first priority,” Thibeau said.
Before the volunteers—all of whom passed the classroom and Redstone Avenue training—are assigned a school zone, they will spend a day observing Kimmons and Hulion at work in crosswalks.
Then the officers will observe each citizen volunteer working a school zone on at least three occasions.
“If we see anything of concern, we will keep training them,” Hulion said.