Police officers and children

Today’s column is going to serve more of a public service announcement than a question from a community member.

As the Community Service Trooper, I have the pleasure of being in the public in a number of places such as schools, senior centers, local businesses, and public events. It is always great to have parents bring their children up and have them shake our hands and thank us for the service we provide. There are also the

parents who tell their child they now have the opportunity to meet a real police officer just like — and then the parents list off the cartoon character who plays their favorite police officer. Then there are the parents or adults in the presence of children who do a couple things that are not necessarily a positive interaction for children when police officers are present.

First off, when a child is simply being a child and a parent tells the child if they do not behave a police officer is going to take them away. We as police officers do not take children away because they are acting like a child. We do not take children away because they are in a restaurant and they won’t eat their meal. We do not take children because they do not follow your request for them to clean their room or to take a nap. We do not take children away because they do not use their seat belt properly. All of the above list items are things I have heard while in the presence of parents and their children.

In statements such a, “You see that police office? If you don’t … that police officer will arrest you and take you away.” Making these types of statements can send the wrong message to children at a very influential time in their lives. What if this child is lost and needs help, but the child’s parents always use police officers as the bad guys who are going to discipline them for the simple things in life.

Those children may be afraid of the police and therefore, will not cooperate with them. Or as the child grows up, they are going to start to believe police officers just simply take kids away. So parents, do not use the threat of calling or taking them to the police as a form of discipline.

Secondly, when you see an officer in public, why is it funny or so common when people automatically say, “It wasn’t me!” and proceed to put their hands up? I have had adults in public places who have made comments along the lines of, “Are you finally here for me?” and put their hands up. This is horrible behavior for kids to see. When kids observe adults doing things like this, they then think it is appropriate and do it themselves when I arrive in their classroom to teach.

Adults and especially those who have young children in your homes or families please be mindful of your comments and actions as you never know what those little ears may pick up on and will remember during a time they need a police officer’s help. I know from personal experience I can teach a 30-minute lesson about safety to early elementary kids and the only thing they remember is that I told them not to eat bugs. They remember nothing about the car seat safety, nothing about not touching guns, but simply remember not to eat bugs.

Ashley Simpson is a Community Service Trooper for the MSP Alpena Post. If you have a question for Trooper Simpson, you can email her at asktroopersimpson@gmail.com or mail them to Ask A Trooper, Michigan State Police Alpena Post, 3283 W. Washington Ave, Alpena, MI 49707.