ADOPT A COP PROGRAM
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The ADOPT A COP program was first proposed in November 1995 by then Deputy Inspector, now Chief, Michael Woodward of the Freeport Police Department and developed with the assistance of Freeport Bayview Avenue School Principal Rodley Williams and the schoolís Youth Counselor Cindy Misrock.
The concept for the program materialized as a consequence of a student assembly addressed by D.I. Woodward to third and fourth grade students at Bayview Avenue School. The concerns the students expressed at the assembly and subsequent lunch and playground meetings highlighted their fears for the future. One nine year old female stated that if she found a gun, she would keep it for protection as she feared dying because so many people have guns that she wonít be alive in ten years. Another nine year old female inquired as to what she should do if her friend was raped. The matter was immediately referred to Ms. Misrock who advised the question originated from a movie the young girl has observed. The young ladyís demeanor indicated the media children are exposed to may result in a profound and traumatic effect on them.
Dr. James Garbarino has compared the existing environmental poisoning to ongoing social poisoning both of which have resulted in a questionable future for todayís children. The causes of environmental poisoning are the dumping of hazardous materials into the air, water and land. The social poisoning results from a combined exposure to violence witnessed personally or through the media. The initial exposure to violence is usually experienced by means of television. A 1992 TV Guide report indicated television shows average 100 acts of violence per hour. Multiply this number by the average amount of television viewing which is conservatively estimated at four hours and translates into 400 witnessed acts of violence daily. Interspersed between scheduled programs are news breaks featuring headlines which are sensationalized and frequently based on acts of violence or disaster. The American Psychological Association (APA) 1993 report, Commission on Violence and Youth, states, "There is absolutely no doubt that higher levels of viewing violence in television are correlated with increased acceptance of aggressive attitudes and increased aggressive behavior...In addition, prolonged viewing of media violence can lead to emotional desensitization towards violence" (Page 33).
The exposure to violence is not limited to the entertainment and/or news media which occurs as a non-participant observer; firsthand or witnessed exposure to violence frequently occurs within the family. Domestic violence, which includes domestic child abuse, introduces and reinforces violence as a means to gain compliance from family members. While domestic violence occurs within every social class, socio-economic factors such as poverty, teen pregnancy and related single parenting, substance abuse, peer pressure and weapon availability have a negative impact on domestic and societal tranquility. The January 1995 National
ADOPT A COP
Institute of Justice Report, "Weapon-related Victimization in Selected Inner-city High School Samples", indicates over 2 million teenagers are the victims of violent crime annually.
Children in their formative years become desensitized to violence and doubt the existence of a meaningful future. The children of the 1970's through the 1990's have seen an ineffective
"War on Drugs", over-occupied prisons, the creation of latch key children from working parent(s), increased socio-economic class disparity, adult self-gratification and increased media violence, all of which combine to question who is in control. The female 9 year old who verbalized her fear of dying within the next ten years from violence exacerbates the need for new and focused societal efforts to assure her and all children of a relatively safe future.
The Freeport Police Department, in conjunction with the Bayview Avenue School, has developed a program which had been proposed as a result of the desire to increase informal interaction between 4th grade students and the police. No other profession has a more mysterious or misunderstood mission as the police department. We have an obligation to contribute to the positive education of those we serve. Police departments should use the means they have at their disposal to clarify their primary mission to protect life and property to all age groups within society. We, as police professionals, are aware of the type of criminal activity that may cause fear in todayís youth. Positive steps must be taken to eradicate such fear and make children feel more secure in their environment.
The ADOPT A COP program has been formulated to provide a positive informal interaction between students and police officers. The program requires one police officer for each 4th grade class who will meet with the class that "adopted" him/her at the onset of the program and monthly thereafter, carrying out the procedures stated herein.
Goals and Objectives
The goals and objectives of the ADOPT A COP program are:
A) To encourage the mutually beneficial exchange of information and concerns between the "adopted" cop and his/her class.
B) Provide a positive police officer role model, thereby dispelling negative police stereotypes.
C) Reassure children about their safety and discuss methods the children may use to avoid potentially hazardous situations.
D) Discuss projects and non-violent forms of entertainment as a positive alternative to media entertainment.
E) Provide an avenue for children to discuss positive alternate means to resolve conflict or express anger or frustration as an alternative to violence or alcohol/drug activity.
F) Provide insight on the function of police officers and encourage students to consider law enforcement as a possible career.
G) Contribute to the positive development of the children who participate in the ADOPT A COP program.
A) Program events and activities will be coordinated between the respective school principal and the designated police department program coordinator.
B) Officers who volunteer to participate in the ADOPT A COP program will wear the appropriate uniform, respective to his/her rank or assignment, when conducting any program related activities. All ADOPT A COP appearances will occur during the participating officerís tour of duty. The officer will coordinate his/her monthly class meetings with the respective shift supervisor.
C) The police department program coordinator will provide specialized information and related instructional aids to assist officers with achieving the forestated goals and objectives.
D) No effort will be made to obtain information about ongoing criminal activities from the children. The spontaneous offering of any information by a child in the ADOPT A COP program will be handled in a confidential manner and referred for follow up investigation. Any follow up investigation will be performed in such a manner so as to protect the initial source.
E) The first step in the ADOPT A COP program will be accomplished by school personnel and will involve:
1) The school principal and youth counselor assigning a class to each officer.
2) Coordinate the officerís first appearance with the police department program coordinator.
3) The class teacher participating in the ADOPT A COP program will be advised of the goals and objectives of the program along with the programís procedural requirements.
4) Contact the respective class teacher and brief him/her on the identity of their classís adopted cop.
5) The class teachers have to explain to students that unexpected emergencies may require a scheduled ADOPT A COP meeting to be rescheduled. A teacherís flexibility to accommodate a rescheduled ADOPT A COP meeting is necessary to the programís successful implementation.
F) The second step in the ADOPT A COP program is the introduction of a class to their "adopted" police officer. The initial meeting should focus on:
1) The officerís introduction and review of his/her professional biography
2) The students introduction of themselves to their officer. The officer should attempt to remember each studentís name and class seating. (A roster, available from the teacher, should it be requested)
3) A descriptive overview of the police officer job requirements emphasizing:
a) Schooling, educational fitness
b) Adherence to: the law, societal values and moral behavior
c) Physical fitness
4) Student questions--encouraging each student to ask a question but avoid the appearance of forcing them to ask a question. If time doesnít permit each studentís question to be answered, ask the students to write any questions or police related subject they would like you to discuss. Inform them that all of their questions or ideas are important and you will reply to them in a letter to the whole class or during your next meeting with them.
G) After the first meeting, the ADOPT A COP program requires:
1) Each student to write a letter to their "Adopted Cop"
2) The "Adopted Cop" will respond with one letter to his/her class, answering student questions and thanking them for their involvement and support. The "Adopted Cop" will also discuss their next meeting together.
3) Written correspondence between the "Adopted Cop" and his/her class should be scheduled between meetings to reinforce the police/student interaction.
H) Future meetings should be scheduled to occur monthly; each meeting will be approximately 30 to 50 minutes in length. Due to police scheduling problems and the inability to anticipate emergency demands for police services, the school program administrators have to agree to flexible scheduling to accommodate a police officerís presence in his/her adopted class.
I) ADOPT A COP program police officers, through the police department coordinator, should be provided with access to pamphlets and short videos which deal with:
Officers who want to incorporate any of the above subjects into their adopted classí meetings are requested to review the material with the class teacher prior to its use.
To maximize the benefit of officer/student interaction during class ADOPT A COP meetings, it is suggested that the officer request the class teacher distribute pamphlets or show videos prior to scheduled ADOPT A COP meetings. This advanced preview will motivate and encourage students to participate in the classroom discussions.
J) In addition to regular monthly meetings and written correspondence, the ADOPT A COP program officer may receive invitations to lunch and/or playground visits. The officer may also be invited to his/her classís picnics, plays or other special activities. Every attempt will be made to accommodate requests from program officers to accept these invitations, police workload and scheduling permitting.
Program officers, on their own time, are requested to consider attending any special activity in the interest of promoting the ADOPT A COP program Goals and Objectives.
K) ADOPT A COP program administrators from the police department and the school will meet periodically to discuss and evaluate the programís progress and propose changes in the curriculum.
L) Teachers and police officers participating in the ADOPT A COP program are encouraged to forward suggestions or comments about the program to their respective program coordinator while the program is in progress.
M) Prior to the end of the school year, the police and school coordinators will select a date to hold an ADOPT A COP day. This day provides an opportunity to bring all program participants together for a day to receive a hands-on demonstration of the police departmentís equipment and interact with special detail officers such as K-9 or mounted officers. In addition, donations from community sponsors are used to provide the children with "T" shirts, hot dogs, snacks and soda.
N) Upon completion of the school year, the ADOPT A COP programís teachers and police officers are requested to submit a critique of the prior yearís program and any suggestions for changes in the forthcoming yearís program. Upon receipt of the critiques, the program administrators will meet to formulate the ADOPT A COP program for the forthcoming school year.
The implementation of the ADOPT A COP program may be accomplished without an adverse effect on the participating officersí regular duties. Monthly meetings of approximately 30 minutes combined with the reading and response to the officersí adopted classí letters does not constitute a significant demand for time. The minimal inconvenience teachers may experience due to officer scheduling or infrequent unavoidable absence will be minuscule in comparison to the potential benefits derived from the program.
The accomplishment of the above stated Goals and Objectives will be readily apparent to all program participants. Tangible results of the program are obvious to succeeding teachers who have reported a noticeably improved demeanor amongst the program participants. The long term benefits should improve the quality of life for ALL participants and contribute to the betterment of society.
In the four years since the program started, one of the most important benefits of the ADOPT A COP program has been the change in attitude amongst all the program participants. The police officers have a more positive opinion and awareness of the students. The students in turn have openly exhibited their appreciation and support for police away from the school environment. These obvious accomplishments prove the programís effectiveness.
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.