Helping Children Overcome Fear of Police
It is unfortunate that many children grow up with the mindset that police officers are a symbol of fear. This opinion often stems from a variety of places including parents who have had run-ins with the law, or parents telling their children that if they do not behave the police will take them to jail. Though these comments, especially when children are warned to behave, may seem harmless, they in fact embed a negative opinion in the mind of a child.
Fortunately, there are several ways to bring a positive face to police. Officer Bailey (pictured with K-9 Spector) of the Ruidoso (NM) Police Department has been making it a point throughout his career to establish trust and a positive connection with children in the Lincoln County community. “I have learned that just talking to them while on calls for service helps,” Bailey says. In addition, to speaking with them, he ensures that no child ever feels intimidated. “I have learned that getting to their level by lowering my body helps a lot.”
Community outreach and working with schools, libraries, and other local organizations can make a difference for the local police department as well as the people they serve. “I believe that conducting presentations also improves trust with children,” Bailey says. “Whether a department uses their specialized units such as D.A.R.E., K-9, SWAT, bike, motor patrols, or even crime scene teams to hold fun presentations to explain to children what police do.” “When I speak at schools, as part of the K-9 unit, I like to educate children about drugs and how K-9’s nose is a million times better than a human’s.” Officer Bailey will even hide a training aid on the premises to allow children to see the K-9 in action.
Another aspect of creating trust with children is by explaining to them aspects of policing and the police uniform. “I have told children that my badge gives me the courage to do my job,” said Bailey. “I will also tell children my belt is my Batman belt, which makes them laugh, and this opens up opportunity to tell them what each item does.”
Officer Bailey has gone above and beyond to bring a positive reputation to police. At one point during a traffic stop, Bailey noticed a little girl in the backseat of the car waving at him. He asked the driver (the girl’s mother) to roll down the window so that he could address the child as well. Once he completed the call, he handed the driver a business card with “Good for one free teddy bear,” written on the back. “I told the mother that if she and the child would stop by the police department the dispatchers would let the little girl pick out a teddy bear.” It did not take long for the little girl to redeem her ticket.
The importance of teaching the younger generations to respect and trust their local law enforcement is crucial. Officer Bailey is promoting positive awareness in Ruidoso by bringing a smile and a teddy bear to children in the community.
– Hilary Romig
(Photo courtesy Teddie Minner)