School Resource Deputy Dennis Thomas with students who helped build Cop Cart. (Courtesy photo)
School Resource Deputy Dennis Thomas and a group of advanced auto shop students, on Nov. 7, showed off the result of a two month-long creative project at Lomppoc’s Cabrillo High School.
They spent more than 80 hours transforming a golf cart that was donated to the school into a mode of transportation that Thomas can use to patrol the campus and provide security to staff and students. The “cop cart” is even equipped with lights and sirens.
The project is special not only in that it provided an extra security resource on campus but it was also a bonding experience for Thomas and the auto shop students.
“When law enforcement and students have the ability to work on a mutual project it is a success on all accounts,” said Thomas, an 18-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office who became the new school resource deputy at Cabrillo and Maple high schools this year.
Before entering law enforcement, Thomas was a mechanic and now puts his former career to use by helping out in the auto shop class when possible.
When a golf cart was donated to the school, it was the perfect opportunity for Thomas to use his skills and new position to work with students on a project that would benefit the school.
He said transforming the Cop Cart will likely go down as one of his most memorable experiences as a school resource deputy.
“This cart allows me to not only have transportation around campus but gives me a starting point to begin lines of communication with students who may not ever have wanted to talk to a cop,” he said. “It was incredibly rewarding to do something positive and constructive with the students.
“I am very proud of them for taking on this challenge, following directions and seeing the project through to completion with enthusiasm.”
Cabrillo High Senior Tyler Burch said he enjoyed working on this project: “I love building things so this project was perfect for me. We had to tear it all the way down and build it back up.”
Cabrillo High School Principal Isidro Carrasco said he was pleased with the process and final product.
“Senior Deputy Thomas has done an outstanding job of using the Cop Cart project as a way to build relationships with our students,” Carrasco said. “These positive relationships go a long way in helping to keep our campus safe.
“We want to work as a team to provide services to our students so that they can succeed on our campus.”
In addition to campus security, the Cop Cart will be used in upcoming school parades and high school games.
— Kelly Hoover for Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.