Police departments across the country have been making serious efforts over the past year to improve their relationships with the communities they serve and protect. Recent protests in response to potential cases of police brutality and excessive force have left some officers feeling that their communities are not just intimidated by police but also see them as opposed to the well being of their constituents.
The Riverdale Police Department in Riverdale, New Jersey is doing its best to combat this attitude by starting early. Last weekend they finished a five-day program attended by 21 kids in the 6th-9th grades.
It was intended to give the kids a glimpse into the daily life of a law enforcement officer. There were a variety of demonstrations including police dogs, staged crash responses, shooting at the local gun range, and a trip to the local police academy.
Originally, the Riverdale Police Department partnered with nearby Pompton Lakes. However, the program was so successful that it simply became too large. Riverdale Police are now entering their second year running their own program.
For Riverdale, it is about more than just informing the kids. “They are more aware than you think,” said Riverdale Police Lt. James Macintosh. Macintosh acts as the program’s coordinator and believes that high profile brutality cases that have dominated the news in recent months are impacting the way children perceive officers.
“It’s about the core values of being a good person and about teamwork,” said Lt. Macintosh. By imparting those values to kids, Macintosh and his fellow officers believe they are not only teaching the kids life lessons, but also showing them that the police can be more than just intimidating figures in uniform. They can be guides and mentors for young people to look up to.
This year’s continued success bodes well for the Riverdale Police and their effort to improve their standing in the community.