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Syracuse Police Foster Positive Relationships through Casual Classroom Chats

This is a photo of Syracuse Police Department officers posing with a group of Salem Hyde students.“What’s all your gear for?”
“Do you all like donuts?”
“How old do you have to be in order to be a police officer?”
Fifth graders at Salem Hyde had plenty of questions for the Syracuse Police Department officers standing in front of them. The officers, ranging from detectives, K-9 officers, patrol officers, and more, were there on a mission: to connect with students and help them feel comfortable engaging with the police.
The Syracuse Police Department, thanks to funding from New York State, partnered this year with the Office of Community Engagement to arrange for off-duty officers to visit with all SCSD 5th graders. The officers read a book, ‘The Police and Me’ by Derrick Dotson, to students – and then left each student with their own copy of the book to keep. Then, they engaged in question/answer sessions and games with the students.
“It’s all about building relationships with children at a younger age,” Sergeant Brad Giarrusso explained. “We want the kids to feel comfortable with police so they’ll come to us for help. The kids often seem shy when they first meet us, but after we do the reading and play games, they start to open up and really come out of their shell. They’re learning that every profession can have a few people in it that give it a bad reputation, but our goal in the SPD is always to be fair. This is the first step in building trust and helping the kids develop a positive perception of a police officer.”
Officers spoke with students about everything from personal hobbies and pets to career goals, the day-to-day things police officers encounter, and more.
“I wanted to be a doctor, but now I want to be a police officer,” one Salem Hyde student said as he patted the sticker shaped like a SPD badge that stuck to his shirt.
“It was good for them to come,” Salem Hyde 5th grader Je'nessa Jackson shared. “I wanted to hear about their experiences. They’re interesting and they want to help stop people from getting in trouble. They’re normal people and I feel more comfortable talking to them now.”
In addition to the readings with all SCSD 5th graders, the Syracuse Police Department also arranged ‘Pizza with the Police’ events for all SCSD 6th – 8th graders this winter as a way to open up the lines of communication with those students. Thank you to the SPD for taking the time to build relationships with our students as they work to keep our community safe!
Anthony Q. Davis, Superintendent
725 Harrison Street
Syracuse, NY 13210
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