ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio (WTRF)
They’re more than just the badge they wear.
Our first responders have a passion for their job, families of their own and a love of community.
We’re going to take you Behind the Badge, to get to know the person who puts on the uniform each day.
Tonight we start with Martins Ferry native, Trooper Chase Watts.
He founded Books With Badges to show students that officers are someone they can trust.
Even as a kid, Trooper Chase Watts knew he wanted to be in law enforcement.
“I was always attracted to the uniform and the cars, and that’s something I stuck with. So once I got out of high school I started seeing, wow this was something I can achieve, something I want to do.”Trooper Chase Watts – Books With Badges
He started his police career at the Yorkville Police Department, then went to the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office and now he’s with The Ohio State Highway Patrol.
In 2016 Trooper Watts says he saw a shift.
Suddenly, law enforcement officers were being seen as hurting, not helping their community.
His solution, was to start Books with Badges.
“I thought well, if there’s something that we can do just to be seen in a positive way, it would be great and as a kid I loved using my imagination. I loved reading books, and I said, well hey, what if we go to schools and we read to the kids, see how it goes.”Trooper Chase Watts – Books With Badges
First, he read to students at his alma mater in Martins Ferry, and then, the idea really took off. Schools were calling to get involved, and he answered.
“And I was working night shift at the time so it’s like alright, alright so you I’m getting off at 6 a.m., sleep for a couple hours and go to school, but it was worth it you know just to see the smiles on their faces and just really get comfortable around us.”Trooper Chase Watts – Books With Badges
It started out with elementary school students and has grown to include middle and high school.
Not so much reading for the older students, but it was conversations and positive choices along with safety and knowledge about the roadways.
He says almost every department in the Ohio Valley has joined in on the fun.
“They’ve all been really supportive; it’s also good networking because there were some officers that haven’t met some troopers or some people from other departments or the sheriff’s office, you know just a mix of people, so it was cool and we always say, hey, it doesn’t matter if you patrol in this area, you have a uniform.”Trooper Chase Watts – Books With Badges
Books with Badges has reached 50,000 students in 22 states. Trooper Watts says he hopes to one day get to all 50.
It’s all about the kids and the officers. Trooper Watts will tell you it’s not about him, but it still feels great.
“The ones who were kind of getting burnt out of just doing the same thing and dealing with the same negativity on the shifts. Whether it’s people or situations or what they see, to say, hey, I know that I’m going here, there’s going to be someone excited to see me and I’m able to give back. It makes me feel good, you know, just a refresh button for them. So again, that’s the ultimate reward for me there.”Trooper Chase Watts – Books With Badges
If you would like to get involved or have a badge come read or talk to a school you can contact them at their website bookswithbadges.org.
They also have an upcoming fundraising event with Hope Rises called Kicks for Kids on September 4 in St. Clairsville.