If you asked any Scott County student — any grade, any school — to identify one officer within the Georgetown Police Department, it is likely the overwhelming answer would be ‘Natalie Payne’.

For some time Officer Payne has been a regular visitor to each of our schools visiting students and educating them on cyber safety including bullying and avoiding dangerous sites and internet practices. She has been a liaison between the schools and students and parents and local law enforcement.

At the same time she has built a rapport with our young people that goes far beyond the duties of a police officer on campus. Young people enjoy talking with her, and on more occasions than any of us may ever know the rapport between Officer Payne and some of these students has made a difference — sometimes a lifesaving and certainly life-changing difference.

Her official title is Community Relations Officer and among her other responsibilities has been building the Citizens Police Academy, which enables private residents to understand police procedures and policies as well as understand the challenges faced by modern-day law enforcement.

Payne became community relations officer in 2012 after returning to the Georgetown Police Department following a four-year stint as an “on-loan” officer to the FBI’s cyber crimes division. It was with the FBI Payne became familiar with how children and young people are lured into dangerous online relationships that often end with intimate photographs online or even tragedy.

“That kind of stuff doesn’t just go away,” Payne said. “When I came back here, I took all that knowledge and training to use to better protect our children and our families here. There was a gap there, and many parents weren’t aware of how dangerous the internet is.”

This week Officer Natalie Payne announced her retirement from the Georgetown Police Department. She will leave behind a vacancy that will not be filled easily. But her work and compassion and appreciation of her job with the school system has laid such a solid foundation for cooperation between our schools and law enforcement that its future will likely continue to grow stronger.

Like many other first responders, the true impact of Officer Natalie Payne’s work may never be fully known or appreciated except with specific individuals and family units. But there is little doubt this community owes a debt to Office Payne for her service and dedication and to the Georgetown Police Department for devoting resources to an area that is often overlooked until it is too late.

We doubt we have heard the last of Officer Payne or her work on cyber safety for young people. But for what she has done to date for Scott County’s young people we join the community and saying, “thanks,” for a job well done.

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