By Lindy Keyser

Special to the Press

When Zachary Griner joined his parents for lunch at the Cotton Gin Cafe Saturday afternoon, he had no idea that his pleasant family outing would end behind bars.

These bars were provided by way of a demonstrative jail cell at Prosper Police Department’s Police Week Open House. Presented as an opportunity to "put your friends behind bars," the activity quickly became a favorite of youngsters at the event.

"We came out for lunch and noticed this open house across the street and thought it would be a great opportunity for Z to meet some police officers and learn about safety," Tracey, Zachary’s mother, said.

Zachary was one of the many children to attend Saturday’s event and part of the department’s target audience. "We want them to know that we’re human too," Police Chief Kirk McFarlin said. "The job goes so far beyond writing tickets and putting people in jail. This open house is a small step towards showing people what we’re all about."

McFarlin takes this concept especially seriously after losing his best friend on the job. In his honor, and to honor other officers killed in the line of duty, the chief lead a brief tribute to fallen officers shortly after the open house began. These reflective beginnings transitioned nicely into an afternoon of community fellowship.

"This is the PPD’s first open house and I thought it was great," Amy Jukes said. Jukes’ daughter, Jillian, enjoyed having her face painted while her mother appreciated the opportunity to show support for the community’s first responders.

In addition to the popular jail cell and face painting station, there was a DJ and summer snacks like snow cones and popcorn. Families were also encouraged to meet and greet the local law enforcement and members of both the Prosper and School District Police Departments attended for this purpose.

"Our department recently expanded to one part-time and four full-time officers," said Officer Rachel Fallwell who joined the PSDPD in April. "We have a really great relationship with the PPD and I was excited to come out and meet the kids," she said.

While the children interacted with both officers and McGruff the crime dog, adults were invited to learn more about crime prevention programs like the Citizen’s Police Academy. The CPA is designed to build trust and gain volunteerism within the community by teaching locals the PPD’s operations, policies and procedures.

Following completion of the CPA, graduates are eligible to join police and community support programs such as the Prosper Citizens’ On Patrol. Members of the COP donate their time to patrol Prosper by car and report suspicious or criminal activity to the PPD. McFarlin says he hopes to see an increase in participation in these programs, in the interest of building a more safety-conscious community.

Though the day was full of fun and information, community camaraderie remained at the core. "Of course I wish that there had been an even greater turnout," McFarlin said, "but I appreciate every single person who came out to be with us today."