In recent months there has been a lot of conversation about law enforcement and public safety. As we move forward as a society and try to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the general public there are steps that can be taken to establish positive relationships from the very beginning.
A Simple Hello
I think we can all agree that in times of need we want our children to know that they can trust first responders when they need help. The first step in building this relationship is simply having them say “hello.” Introducing our children to first responders in a calm environment, before there is an emergency, is the beginning of a trusting relationship. The other benefit of this introduction is the positive effect it has on the first responders. As a police officer, there is no better feeling than having a child come to me for a simple hello. Sometimes that hello or small exchange can brighten even my darkest days.
Throughout the course of my career, I have heard several parents telling their children, “if you are not good that officer is going to take you to jail.” After this exchange the parent wonders why their child won’t say hello. As an officer, this is a misconception that I do not enjoy hearing. My job is first and foremost to serve and protect. I will do everything in my power to keep the public safe, which at times means taking individuals to jail, but is ensured in several other ways as well. Children need to know that first responders are there to help them, not scare them. My first tip is to keep the introductions positive.
How to Meet an Officer
There are times that are better than others for these special introductions. If you notice an officer actively working with a civilian it is better to wait. With our primary goal being the safety of all civilians and ourselves, we would not want to risk the safety of anyone by causing distractions for the first responders. Our local police and fire department love to be actively involved in the community and look forward to opportunities to meet members of the public. There are some extra precautions being taken due to COVID-19, however, if you are interested in setting up a time for your child to meet a first responder in a controlled environment do not hesitate to reach out and see how we could arrange this safely.
Our local fire departments also love to interact with the community and COVID-19 has not gotten in their way. The Rowan Fire Department has participated in drive-by birthday parties for both children and adults since the start of COVID-19. Deborah Horne, Rowan County Fire Division Chief states, “we still get out in the community, even if just blowing our siren when we see kids playing or running good will calls.”
Over the course of the year there are several events designed for community involvement. Some of these events such as Touch a Truck allow for children and adults to view some of the equipment and other resources that our city uses, while other events are not designed specifically for this but officers are attending providing security. This is a wonderful opportunity to teach your child that first responders are there to make sure everything runs smoothly and assist if needed. If the first responders that are working the event are not actively working with an individual this is a perfect opportunity to allow your child to say hello. It’s okay for your children to ask questions and tell us stories.
Even though many events are currently on hold, we can still look forward to all of the community events coming back once it is safe to do so. Events like parades, nights out, the Rowan County Fair, festivals such as Farmer’s Day, the Cheerwine Festival, and more are all places where you can interact with both police officers and firefighters in Rowan County. Specifically, the Rowan County Fire and Rescue Association is saddened that they will not have the opportunity to set up their booth at the Rowan County Fair this year. “The Rowan County Fire and Rescue Association has the booth and all fire departments in the county are invited to man the booth one or more days and/or nights. They bring a truck or trucks, personnel, give away all types of items for children all the way to senior adults. Give away items range from fire hats for kids to oven mitts, measuring spoons and information on what to do in an emergency or a way to receive free smoke detectors,” says Horne. The goal of all of the events is to promote a positive relationship with the community and know that they can call any first responder in case of an emergency.
An easy way to provide your entire neighborhood with an opportunity to introduce their children to a police officer is by requesting a visit from the Neighborhood Ice Cream Experience truck. The N.I.C.E. truck is a community outreach tool that the Salisbury Police Department is happy to have. Putting a smile on the faces of the citizens we serve brings us a lot of joy. Current restrictions may not allow us to visit right now, but please keep the N.I.C.E. truck in mind for your next neighborhood event.
The first responders in Rowan County are here to serve and protect you. A big part of this is having a strong relationship with our community. By allowing your children to meet and interact with first responders, you initiate a healthy relationship between your children and first responders. We want your children to know that we are here for them and to take the fear away. I would much rather your children look at first responders as friends so that when they are in need, they don’t hesitate to come to us.
Times are hard right now not only for first responders but for everyone in our community. Our normal is gone and who knows when or if we will ever get back to what we remember as normal. In these times I think it is important to rely on each other to get through tough times and make our community better. If you are looking to call the fire department or the police station for a non-emergency discussion, call their landline, not 911. To find the phone number for the fire stations in Rowan County, visit https://www.rowancountync.gov/408/Fire-Rescue-Stations. To find contact information for the Sheriff’s Office, visit https://www.rowancountync.gov/485/Sheriffs-Office. Join me in creating positive relationships between our first responders and all of our civilians, even the youngest ones!