ELIZABETHTOWN —In an effort to reach out to the community and let children become accustomed to law enforcement personnel, members of the Elizabethtown Police Department met with children in an area neighborhood for snacks and story time.
On Thursday, Interim Chief of Police Kip Hester and Patrol Commander Mark McMichael treated children in Benjamin Manor Apartments to cupcakes, cookies, chips, water, and juice and interacted with the children that were present.
Hester is aware that many people have misconceptions about police officers’ jobs and responsibilities, and the idea for the effort stemmed from those erroneous perceptions.
“With everything negative in the media about policemen right now, we want to do something positive for kids,” He said. “Most of the time when we deal with parents, it’s in a negative way, so when we can deal with them in a positive way, we’ll give it a try.”
That positive interaction began with reading a story about Mr. Jones, who was startled by movement in his shed and called the police department to come to his aid. The story went on to tell that police officer Bill arrived and had feelings of apprehension about what he might discover, but he bravely faced down his fears and entered the shed, finding only a squirrel rummaging around.
“That’s what we do. Police come to help people with all kinds of different things. It could be a squirrel in your shed or anything else,” Hester instructed the children. “That’s what our job is — to keep you safe. If you ever need help, don’t be afraid to come to us.”
McMichael added, “We’re not here to discpline you — your parents do that — we’re here to help you. We can be here to listen, too. If you see one of us riding around in our car, flag us down — we’ll be happy to talk to you.”
“I want to be a police officer. Then I can catch bad guys who try to steal stuff,” announced one of the children present.
“You can do it. You can do anything you want,” encouraged Hester.
After story time, children were given stickers and were led outside to the patrol car, where the youngsters explored the siren and loudspeaker with gusto.
The effort was not the first by the Police Department to produce familiarity with community members. They had just returned from a K-9 demonstration at a primary school and have recently conducted similar endeavors at day care centers and at the library, where they had around 20 children in attendance.
McMichael stated that the occasion allowed them to get to know not only the children, but their parents as well.
“We have an idea of who they are. If we see one of the children and don’t see their parents, we know where they should be and who their parents are,” he said.
Hester added, “Every agency needs to do this kind of thing more often, and I hope we can continue to improve our relationship with the community.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.