A program involving police and kids that got a lot of attention when it was canceled in one Massachusetts town is being picked up by dozens of others.
Northampton police had been participating in “High Five Fridays” for about two months, with officers greeting students with high fives at their schools on Fridays. But the department nixed the program last month because multiple parents complained kids were uncomfortable with the police presence at their schools, particularly undocumented kids, children of color and other kids who have had bad experiences with police.
Seeking to “build trust, reduce fear (and) foster positive relationships” between police and children, Yarmouth police decided to reintroduce the program in their town, and the chief invited all other Massachusetts police chiefs to join the effort.
“What police departments try and do is create any opportunity they can to engage youth and have that face-to-face contact with them,” said Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael, whose department signed up within half an hour of the invitation. “You don't want the kids’ first time they have to deal with a police officer being in some crisis type of situation.”
Carmichael said he is sensitive to the concerns families may have but believes the program is one of many his officers are involved in that create a positive bond between cops and kids.
“You have to be sensitive to that, and you have to acknowledge that,” Carmichael said. “but in the same sense, maybe you can rebuild any past issues that have happened.”