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January 31, 2013

OUR VIEW: An opportunity to reach children

Hollywood often portrays cops as the menacing bad guys who go to any length to get their man, regardless of who gets hurt in the process. On both the big and small screens, police officers are tough guys starting fights and shoot-outs.

If you’re a kid watching those movies and TV shows — and sadly there’s a lot of young eyes taking it all in — cops are scary.

But in real life, cops are there to help people. Yes, they arrest the bad guys and carry guns, but they can most often be seen helping people. It’s this portrayal of cops that most kids don’t get to see.

“A lot of the kids, the only time they see the police is

on TV.”

That’s what Logansport Police Officer Danny Farris told us earlier this week. That’s also what he’s working to change through his participation in Police And Teachers Helping Students, or PATHS, program.

Farris is now working full time in Logansport elementary schools to build positive relationships between the police and elementary students, while also teaching safety tips and lessons.

He reads to students, eats lunch with them, hangs out in gym class, and just generally finds himself where the kids are gathered. For those kids with the Hollywood version of cops in their minds, it’s quite the change of perspective.

No longer are cops scary. Cops are now Danny, the cool guy who reads funny stories to the class.

Getting children to trust police officers is just a small part of what the program will accomplish.

PATHS opens a valuable door in the conversation about Internet safety. Kids are online more than we’d likely care to admit. The Internet is a place rich in resources for students, but it’s also full of hidden dangers. Having an officer in the schools befriending these students will go a long way in getting the message of that danger through to them.

Farris tells us he will introduce lesson plans on cyber-bullying and computer safety. And when he does, we’re hopeful the kids will listen to what their new friend has to say.

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