Serving a unique need during unique times
by APB Staff
When lockdown orders came down in most areas in March, school officials across the country instructed students they’d be doing lessons from home. The news caused parents, many of which were still awaiting their job future, to scramble to figure out how to keep their little ones occupied when they weren’t doing schoolwork. Luckily, the transition has been made a lot easier thanks to the help of local departments around the country. From read-alouds to art contests, many officers have been using stay-at-home orders as an opportunity to further develop goodwill with young people.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2 p.m., the Arlington, Virginia, County Police Department fires up Pages with the Police on Facebook Live. School resource officers, who would normally visit classrooms for story time, now sit before a camera to tell tales. Sitting with his K9, Hugo, on a recent April afternoon, Corporal Binckley read K9 Flash Becomes a Hero to more than 4,000 Arlington County families.
“I picked this book because it talks about some of the things K9 Hugo and I do in Arlington County,” Binckley said to the audience. Aside from entertaining thousands of families and children during these uncertain times, virtual reading sessions are a perfect way for departments to connect with the community.
“Community engagement is one of our department’s three key initiatives. We’re going to have to be working to find innovative ways to still engage with our public, even if we’re not doing so in person,” Kirby Clark, a department communications specialist, told LocalDVM.com.
Sergeant Bill Massey, a school resource officer for the Chatham, Massachusetts, Police Department, likes to end the day with a good book. He hosts nightly storytelling sessions online, often with a fireplace in the background, and regularly guides visitors through virtual tours of the department and police cruisers.
“Our aim is to keep kids connected to their SRO and the police department in a positive way with positive community messages and community engagement,” he explained to CNN.
In addition to posting videos of officers reading, Wisconsin Rapids Police Department personnel took it a step further by photographing pages of the books and editing them in the video so kids can see the illustrations more clearly. The program launched to a great reception with more than 6,000 Facebook views in the first hour, according to the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune.
As shown by the O’Fallon, Missouri, Police Department, goodwill activities extend beyond the pages of a book. The department challenged kids to showcase their artistic talents with police-themed drawings. It’s received a collection of masterpieces featuring everything from police cars to officer portraits, many of which have been posted to social media with the hashtag #KeepThemBusy.
“We are fortunate to have a supportive community, so anything we can do to help in this stressful time lets us give back to our residents,” Officer Tony Michalka told CNN. “Of course, most of us are just big kids at heart, so the officers are enjoying the pictures, too.”
The folks at the Swatara Township Police Department, located in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, had a similar inspiration. A couple times a week, they post a topic on Facebook with a call for young artists to send in their artistic interpretations of the subject via email. The Kids Coloring Challenge will continue until schools resume, at which time, department members will vote on winners for each topic and age group.
“Doing something like this brings out the kid in all of us. It allows you to be more relaxed in a profession that is almost always seen in a very serious manner,” noted Corporal Brandon Pokrop, a father of two and Kids Coloring Challenge director, to FOX43.
As seen in the May issue of American Police Beat magazine.
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