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The cafeteria is a great place to observe the students in their natural environment. Approach with caution; remember, they are still wild creatures. You will see who are friends, who are rivals. Keep that info tucked away; it could be important one day.


Ask questions about things you know little about, or ask to be shown; it will spark a connection. Striking up a conversation is the easiest way to build relationships and gain trust.

ids are awful. They’re spoiled, entitled, impulsive and rude. It is generally understood in our po- litically correct societal mentality that “everyone who is a member of the team earns a trophy” and that kids do not have accountability for their play, whether they win or lose.

How do we know this? Ask your cops for volunteers to work in a school environment. How many police offi cers want to play Simon Says on the cafeteria fl oor during physi- cal education class? How about spending time reading Offi cer Buckle and Gloria to fi rst graders using voice infl ection and animation?

Imagine that you are a sworn police officer walking through a school cafeteria, with 300 wild sets of eyes watch- ing intently every step taken as you pretend to use a banana as a phone. Moments later, you may have to dedicate time to a student struggling with his/her sexual identity when that student has no one else in whom to confi de. Coincidently, other situations may require the same offi cer to act imme- diately and caringly as a student decides to turn in a razor blade he/she used to injure him/herself.

Why don’t most cops want to work with kids? The most common response will be something like, “It isn’t real police work.” For most police offi cers, “real police work” is chasing a bad guy down an alley, jumping over a chain link fence while dodging trash cans, and snarling Rottwielers on chains. “Real police work” is physically tackling and arresting the armed felon, confi scating the gun, seizing the illegal drugs, and clicking on the metal bracelets. The “real police offi cers” exchange high fi ves while the bad guy goes right to prison from the back of a patrol wagon.

So why the aversion to working with kids? Regardless of the type of contacts you have had with kids in your jurisdic- tion while on patrol, it is important to keep the bigger picture in mind. Kids, unlike adults, are more likely to approach a police offi cer to tell them good news. Community relation- ships become much easier to develop when you can discuss an athlete going to the state championships, getting accepted into college, or buying a new bike.

Kids are looking for praise; they want to be recognized. They do not want the trophy just for attending or being a member of the team. Oftentimes they look to the community leaders, such as the friendly police offi cer, because they have no one else with whom to share their news. We as police of- fi cers and mentors have a conscious decision to make when confronted with these scenarios; either to be disinterested or be proud and supportive.

The school environment can be viewed as its own society. Most of the time, it can be representative of the community as a whole. Much like the larger community, not all of our resi- dents are awful. On the contrary, it is a small percentage that we routinely encounter who cloud our perception of the area. Kids are not awful. It is only a few students who cause problems who represent the exception to the rule. We need to keep in mind that our schools are full of students who will become our future leaders, businessmen and business- women, activists, and police offi cers. They will be athletes, professionals, artists, and parents. The majority of the student body requires our positive focus.

The quest for most police departments remains to identify

an offi cer who has the personality and patience for dealing with kids. In some departments, it might be like fi nding a needle in a haystack. This is not the position where you can assign an offi cer against his/her will. The position needs to be fi lled with an energetic, intelligent, good-natured soul. This offi cer needs to be self-deprecating with a sense of humor because the ribbing about being a wanna-be school 47

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