CANTON, Ohio - When Officer Lamar Sharpe enters the room, students at Canton City Schools act like they're in the presence of a rock star.
Kids run to him like he’s a magnet, hugging and high-fiving him.
Officer Sharpe has been with the Canton Police Department for 17 years. He isn’t a school resource officer — he is a community police officer.
“When I came on this job, when I first started working in this area, and I wave at a kid? They would flick me off,” Sharpe said.
The responses he gets now are a far cry from his rookie days — and it’s thanks to his hard work and dedication.
“I know that they count on me and I count on them,” he said. “We hold each other accountable and that’s huge.”
We spent the day with Sharpe on his regular routine. First, a stop at McGregor Elementary, where he danced with kindergartners and 2nd graders to Justin Timberlake in the gym. The dancing could only start when the kids stopped hugging him, though.
“When I say Officer Sharpe is in the building, oh my gosh. I need a police force to hold the building down because they’re so excited to see him!” said principal Annie Arvidson. “Where else would you hear that? That the police are in the building and everyones saying ‘Yay!!’ and wanting hugs.”
Next, we head to Belden Elementary, where Officer Sharpe walks in the door to more high-fives and hugs. These are 3rd through 5th graders, so we expect them to be a little more subdued about their adoration for the rock star cop. But, they are anything but subdued, screaming like he’s Michael Jackson when he runs into Mrs. Adams classroom.
When he isn’t stopping by the schools, Sharpe is out in the community. The back of his police SUV is stocked with snacks, juice boxes, blankets and socks for the homeless.
He started his foundation “Be a Better Me” in 2016 with his wife, spending time mentoring young men and young boys. The program has supporters around the globe, and police departments from across America ask for his advice when it comes to community policing.
Sharpe, a father of nine, knows how much these positive interactions mean to the kids. After all, he said he didn’t have many positive interactions with police officers while growing up in Akron.
“It was rough. The streets we came from were really rough,” he said. “And if it wasn’t for a couple putting their hands on us and being that voice, I probably wouldn’t be here right now.”
And that’s a good thing, because laughing with these kids until their stomaches hurt, that’s right where Officer Sharpe belongs.