FORT SMITH -- Residents will be able to follow the escapades of the city's top police cat across multiple formats going forward.
The Police Department and city on Tuesday released the first episode of a new children's short story series, "The Adventures of Pawfficer Fuzz."
The initiative centers around the eponymous Pawfficer Fuzz, a male Siamese Manx cat who's a fixture in the Police Department's Community Relations Unit. It will feature a new tale on a biweekly basis that people can watch on the department's YouTube channel or listen to on audio platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Amazon Music, according to a city news release.
Parents will also be able to download text versions of these stories from the Police Department's website to read with their children, as well as free coloring sheets.
Robyn Shoptaw, crime prevention officer in the department's Community Relations Unit, said episodes will show Fuzz and others in the department -- including the K-9s Behr and Ajax -- responding to calls in the community while teaching children various safety lessons.
It's an expansion of the department's existing Pawfficer Fuzz program, which began in 2019 to help build a relationship with the public in places such as schools, nursing homes or anywhere else that requests a visit from Fuzz.
Shoptaw said the department has to constantly develop creative and innovative ideas for building relationships and trust with the community.
"If you're constantly doing the same thing that everybody else is doing, that's not going to build you anymore relationships," Shoptaw said. "That's not going to get you in touch with more of the community that you haven't been able to touch."
Shoptaw believes "The Adventures of Pawfficer Fuzz" will be a useful educational tool for teachers, parents and caregivers as well.
The first episode of the series is titled "Fuzz Finds His Calling." Narrated by Josh Buchfink, Fort Smith's public relations manager, it recounts how Fuzz took a chance and persevered through "Police Acatemy" training with other cats named Popsicle, Marbles, Snowball and Mushy to fulfill his longstanding dream of joining the Fort Smith Police Department. It also teaches the importance of looking for and acting on opportunities to help others. Shoptaw appears as a supporting character alongside Officer Brad Williams and Police Chief Danny Baker.
Aric Mitchell, police spokesman, said he works with Shoptaw to develop story ideas he writes into a final product for each episode. Other contributors outside Buchfink include Detective Cpl. Greg Napier, who created the introduction that starts every video, and Christina Williams of Christina Williams Consulting, a private consultant and marketer contracted through the city.
Elizabeth Do, a senior at Southside High School, has also been providing the art for the series that can be seen in its videos, coloring sheets and other material like social media posts.
Do, who lives in Fort Smith, said via email she is taking AP Drawing Portfolio with David King at Southside. She got involved in "The Adventures of Pawfficer Fuzz" after the volunteer opportunity was presented during her junior year in January, seeing it as an opportunity to both combine community service and the arts and contribute to her community.
Do plans to provide art for the series through next summer. She also hopes to still have the time and chance to continue volunteering for it after she graduates.
"I hope that children listening or watching this story are able to gain a better awareness of safety tips as they grow up," Do said. "I want my art to be able to cultivate a more aware community of people, willing to be open to helping others around them."
The Police Department plans to keep releasing new episodes of "The Adventures of Pawfficer Fuzz" through the holidays, according to Mitchell. It intends to continue working ahead to prevent people from having to wait longer than two weeks for future installments.