Sunny skies and temperatures nearing 90 degrees didn’t deter several hundred young people, their parents and grandparents from attending the annual Pine Bluff Police Department’s Back to School event Saturday at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. park.
Called “Catch It, Clean It and Cook It,” the event featured fishing for young and old, with officers providing the equipment and bait to those who didn’t have it, and even helping them clean the fish, which they could then see cooked and eat themselves.
“This was my first time as the administrator of the department to deal with this,” Interim Police Chief Jeff Hubanks said. “I got out here early to try and help in any way I could, then tried to stay out of the way.”
In addition to hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, drinks and catfish, the event also featured a school supply give-away.
Sgt. Hosea Thompson, who is assigned to the department’s Public Relations Division, said bags containing pencils, pens, paper and notebooks were given away to a large number of students.
“Every year this event seems to get a little bigger and better,” Thompson said, taking a break from frying catfish under a small tent while a long line waited for the finished product.
Hubanks said the event, which was sponsored by the Public Relations Department, was one of many the department has been involved in this year.
“This is one of the ways we can give back and continue to serve the community,” he said.
Thompson said the interaction with the young people, who get to see police officers in a different light, makes the officers’ job a little easier.
The department also set up bounce houses that attracted a steady stream of children. Nearby, Lt. Mike Jenkins, who is now in charge of Animal Control, sat under another tent with one of the many dogs available for adoption at the animal shelter.
“We’re pushing adoption awareness in the community because a lot of people didn’t know we did that,” Jenkins said. “We’ve made great strides and and have a wonderful group of volunteers who are helping us.”
Jenkins said that 17 animals have been adopted this month and another 37 dogs and cats have been “rescued” by various organizations.
“They might be looking for a particular type of dog,” Jenkins said, explaining that two boxers were picked up at the shelter Friday, and two other dogs of other breeds were scheduled to leave the shelter Saturday.
Hubanks said since the police department took over animal control, “we’re pushing adoption seriously.
“We want to get to the point where we’re a no-kill shelter as defined by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals),” Hubanks said. “The shelter is now open seven days a week and every Saturday they’re there for people who want to adopt an animal.”
Department officials estimated that more than 500 people attended Saturday’s event.