Officer Parker honored by Plano Police Department

Parker shows his Wildcat Pride after 26 years of serving in PISD. (Photo by Amanda McNatt)

Parker shows his “Wildcat Pride” after 26 years of serving in PISD. (Photo by Amanda McNatt)

Amanda McNatt, Staff Writer

Arthur Parker, a former police officer of 12 years at Plano Senior and currently stationed at Clark High School, was the recipient of the 2015 Officer of the Year Award from the Plano Police Department.

Students who attended Clark High School, like junior India Ferguson, are already aware of just what makes Parker, better known as OP, worthy of the award. From handing out balloon animals and candy, to playing his harmonica in the hallways and at lunch, Parker plays a large role in the days of students.

“He is kind to everyone,” Ferguson said. “He makes everyone feel equal, he doesn’t care what classes you’re in.”

According to Ferguson, Parker makes a difference in the lives of the students he encounters in his job. His dedication towards helping others and reaching out to those in need began at a young age.

“For me, it all started in the third grade,” Parker said. “I knew I wanted to be a police officer, I was this skinny little kid, but we had a serious problem with theft at my elementary school.”

Growing up in Alaska, Parker’s elementary school had long hallways used to store coats and lunch boxes when they were not being used. Parker sat right next to the entrance to this room. When lunches began to go missing, Parker’s teacher put him in charge of catching the thief.

“I was only eight years old and she gave me the responsibility to keep an eye out for whoever was stealing. It really empowered me,” Parker said. “I felt like I was on top of the world. This was a real responsibility to have.”

Parker caught the thief, but became emotionally distraught when he figured out why he had been stealing the food. The child was unable to eat breakfast and there was no lunch program offered at the school, this had been the only time the child could eat.

“I learned that there’s always a story. I know that there are a lot of hungry kids and some aren’t hungry for food,” Parker said. “They’re hungry for someone to listen, someone to talk to, someone to guide them, because they don’t have it in their lives.That was the beginning of who I am.”

Though Parker started his career with the Plano Police Department in 1985, he began working in Plano Independent School District (PISD) schools in 1990 at Plano Senior. In his time working on the Plano Senior campus before moving to Wilson Middle School, he grew close with many staff members, like current librarian Linda Bamback.

“You felt like he wasn’t just the officer on campus. You knew him and his story,” Bamback said. “The students respected and listened to him, and he had a lot of influence over them. It comes down to his connection to the students.”

According to Bamback, Parker not only corrected students’ negative actions, but he went the extra mile by helping them learn from their mistakes. In addition to his time spent at PISD schools, Parker has also helped students by speaking at graduation and helping at the Youth Police Academy.

“I used to learn everyone’s name,” Parker said. “I had pictures in sandwich bags and if I couldn’t remember their name, I’d buy them an ice cream or a soda.”

Parker’s learning of names didn’t start randomly, there was a purpose behind it. It started out as a targeted activity, as Parker learned the names of the specific kids that he felt would appreciate it the most.

“I started learning names because when you go to the cafeteria, you see groups,” Parker said. “But there are also kids sitting alone. When I first started working here, I went and talked to those kids.”

According to Parker, these kids would be greatly discouraged when they’d ask him if he knew their names, and he didn’t. This caused him to focus on the kids who sat alone.

“Some of the kids in the groups would ask why I payed attention to them because they were ‘nobodies,’” Parker said. “How could you say that about somebody? So that was my motivation, everyone is somebody.  I felt obligated to learn everyone’s name, but their names were the ones I cared about.”

Parker is considered a good cop in the eyes of his students, according to Bamback, and they approved when hearing that he had received the 2015 Officer of the Year Award.

“What’s important is being accessible, being able to talk to me, but not forcing it,” Parker said. “You joke with them and you plant a seed, but, it’s deeper than that. It’s part of who I am.”