Cops Fan Out To Schools
by Allan Appel | Sep 4, 2012 8:07 am
At one elementary school in town, the new academic year brought a surprise temporary fashion accessory—the cap of New Haven’s assistant police chief.
The hat was passed by Assistant Chief Luiz Casanova as he and Hill beat cops visited Roberto Clemente Leadership Academy on Columbus Avenue for the first day of kindergarten last week.
For three days last week cops all over town descended on every school for the beginning of the academic year. It was a new push to connect cops with kids—one that now Casanova pledges to make a year-round citywide campaign.
“The beat cops throughout the city are basically adopting a school,” Casanova proclaimed. He said he will assign each of his top neighborhood cops to match individual cops with individual schools for regular visits.
“I’m having a good time,” he declared at Clemente on Thursday. Among his first encounters: wide-eyed pre-K-er Jalah Bethea, who called out “captain!” when they greeted each other in the hallway. Casanova appeared not to mind by the demotion.
For Casanova it was also a trip down memory lane as he led a merry Officers Diego Quintero and Jason Jackson down Clemente’s hallways. Clemente had been a Clemente student in the 1970s at its previous building down the block; he also served two years as an SRO, schools resource officer, at Clemente early in his career.
“Make yourselves at home!” Principal Pam Franco called otu to the officers. Then she added: “If my staff gets nervous seeing the police, tell them you’re just visiting. They’re not used to this.”
“You see this. It shouldn’t be this way. We’re doing something wrong if that’s the reaction. We’re going to change that [with this new program],” Casanova said as he went out into the hall to greet more arriving kids and teachers.
Clemente is one of the system’s only seven schools with a police officer already onsite (not counting the Board of Ed’s unarmed security staffers). Officer Jackson said he’d love to see each school have its own cop; he noted that the only time he goes to the school is to investigate problems.
In Melissa Ugolick’s second-grade classroom, Casanova introduced himself and his officers and did his hat trick with Trinity Willett. After she relinquished the cap, she declared, “It was the best thing ever!”
After singing happy birthday to Jazreal, Casanova gave his card and contact info to fifth-grade teacher Stephanie Pacelli. He promised that on the school’s monthly college day, the local officers would be sure to be there, perhaps along with the SWAT and scuba teams.
Pacelli pronounced the idea of cops’ more regular visits “awesome.”
The idea is that they not only come in on special occasions but eventually become so comfortable a presence they might, for example, read with the kids as part of the lessons on a regular basis.
“Early on [with] kids fostering a great relationship in the neighborhoods, it’ll pay great dividends,” said Officer Quintero.
He happened to be wearing one of the new polo shirt-style uniforms that is now an option for officers in the summer. Its more casual look is also part of enhancing officers’ image as more approachable, Casanova said.
Casanova added that the department will be working with the schools’ superintendent to establish a protocol for the officer visits. Each district manager will tailor the deployment of his or her officers to specific needs and schedules at their area schools, he said.
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What a wonderful ideal. That is about the only way u are going to change kids negative attitudes about cops. It’s when they are small and not yet contaminated with hate because some of them learned from the environment that they live in. There minds are fresh an looking for new ideas at that age so let it be a positive experience with a cop and they will never forget that when it come time to help out an officer….