School cop writes kids’ book with daughter, teacher

Find why a Portland Police Bureau officer took it upon himself to write a children’s book about Community Policing. And, you’ll see perhaps the very last photo of ex-Chief Rosie Sizer smiling – and a picture of Chief Mike Reese while he was still East Precinct Commander …

Then Portland Police Bureau Chief Rosie Sizer was all smiles at the debut event for newly-published copies of  “Portland Police Bureau: A Kids’ Guide to What We Do”, with Woodmere Elementary teacher Molly Thoman-Walker and her co-author/father School Resource Officer Dave Thoman, who appeared with Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Although the book has become an instant sensation with school kids, the new children’s book, “Portland Police Bureau: A Kid’s Guide to What We Do”, took nearly two years of diligent effort to come to fruition.

That the book was introduced to the public on May 5 at Woodmere Elementary School, on SE Duke Street, was fitting: The co-authors have strong ties to the school. Portland Police Bureau School Resource Officer Dave Thoman serves the school, and his daughter, Molly Thoman-Walker, is a 3rd and 4th grade teacher at Woodmere.

Before the co-authors sat down for a late afternoon book-signing session with Woodmere’s kids, they talked with us about the project.

Daughter inspires dad to teach, write
Asked how the project started, Thoman-Walker explained, “Ever since I became a teacher, I wanted my dad to be come be with my kids, and by doing so, have a positive relationship with police officers. He’s been reading to my classes for seven years, and also to other classes at my grade level.”

But, the books they were using didn’t “fit” Portland well, Thoman-Walker added.

“There are other books on the subject,” Thoman said. “But we looked hard to find a book that worked for us, and couldn’t find one. They were outdated or didn’t fit this Bureau or our city. So, we decided to write our own,”

The book, Thoman said, describes the jobs in the Police Bureau, and its divisions or units. “It also talks about some of the non-sworn positions that help us do our job. There is a lot of information to help take the mystery out of police work for kids.”

Thoman explained that the book was a collaborative effort. “Because I’ve met with, and read to, kids in her classes, we both knew what the issues are, and what we wanted. We sat around the dining room table and we started fleshing it out, throwing ideas back and forth.”

When it came down to putting words on paper, Thoman admitted that his daughter did that part. “She’s a lot faster at typing than I am.”

PPB Detective Division Commander Michael Crebs and Police Chief Mike Reese say they appreciate the dedicated effort it took to bring out the new book.

Former boss says ‘It took tenacity’
When Thoman was considering taking on the project, he took the idea of writing a new policing book to his boss, then East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs, who is now Commander of the Detective Division.

Crebs told us, “I thought it was a great idea, and told him to ‘run with it’. I also told him to keep at it, because it would probably take longer than he anticipated. Dave’s tenacity and perseverance has really paid off. This book allows us to better interact with the youth, and break down some of the barriers that exist.”

School Resource Officer Dave Thoman says he’s not worried about getting writers’ cramp, as he autographs dozens of new books.

Appeals to wide range of students
Although the book was targeted to students, from kindergarten through third grade, Thoman said he’s used the book in presentations to youngsters from preschool to seventh grade. “School counselors and the teachers convinced me that the age range for those who would enjoy the books should be expanded beyond what I thought was appropriate. They were right. Now, some of the other School Resource Officers have used them as well.”

A hit with kids
Now that the book is published, the young students lucky enough to have a Portland Police Bureau officer visit their class and give them a copy, really love it, Thoman-Walker said. “They love that we’re the authors. But they enjoy the interesting facts they learn from it. And, they like seeing photographs of our city, and learning how to recognize officers’ uniforms and police cars. That makes it special.”

Asked for an example of what facts get the most response, Thoman-Walker smiled, “One is that the Mounted Patrol Officers are responsible for cleaning up after their horse when it poops on the sidewalk. They like the silly things like that.”

Kids don’t seem to mind waiting in this long line to get an autographed copy of “Portland Police Bureau: A Kids’ Guide to What We Do” signed by the co-authors.

Not available in any store
“When we read the book with them, the kids are just fascinated with all the tools that I carry,” Thoman added. “They’re interested to learn what they are, and why we carry them. They also like looking at a patrol car.”

This book is not available to the general public, Thoman said. “It’s intended to be used in the presentation that officers do with children in the classroom – or when kids come in for a precinct tour. No, it’s not going to be on Powell’s shelves, or at Amazon.com!”

School Resource Officer Dave Thoman gives an autographed copy of his new book to Woodmere kindergartner Zane Wheeland and his mom, Jessica.

New police chief says he values this resource
At the event, a week before East Precinct Commander unexpectedly became the Portland Police Bureau’s new Chief of Police, Mike Reese commended the project.

“This is a wonderful book,” Reese told us. “It really humanizes police officers. It is really engaging for kids, and is well done. I’m particularly proud of what Dave and his daughter have done. It really fills a need that they saw, to help kids and younger grades understand what police officers do.”

Heather Hull, Principal of Woodmere Elementary, looks on, as teacher Molly Thoman-Walker pauses while signing copies of the new book she co-wrote with her father.

Heather Hull, Principal of Woodmere Elementary, was all smiles about the book event, and laudatory about her teacher. “Not only is Molly a good author, she’s a great teacher. In fact, I’ve chosen her to be on my ‘interview committee’, this year, for filling some of our positions in the coming school year.”

So, can we look for this father/daughter team to author other children’s books? “No, I don’t think so,” Thoman said. “One thing I’ve learned from this experience is that I’d much rather talk with kids than write a book.”

As they say on those late night TV ads, “Not available in ANY store …!”

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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