Connecting Cops & Kids

The YEF Institute and the Fred Rogers Company have partnered to connect cities with a no-cost training program that enhances community policing efforts and public safety by improving police interactions with children and teens. The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) is supporting a series of local training sessions in communities across the nation.

The Fred Rogers Company, well known as the nonprofit organization responsible for the creation of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, has produced "One On One: Connecting Cops & Kids," a video-based professional development training for police and community support agencies. Its goal is to help officers increase their effectiveness when interacting with children and teens.

The day-long training is designed to raise officers' awareness of the tremendous impact their presence has on children, and show how basic knowledge of children's development can enhance an officer's impact, safety and ability to achieve law enforcement goals.

The program's strong reception by police in the Pittsburgh area, where the training was piloted extensively, resulted in a COPS Office grant for a national rollout of the training available to selected police departments at no cost. Earlier this year, the YEF Institute assisted the Fred Rogers Company in soliciting applications for this training from cities across the country.

Trainings have taken place with police departments and social service agency partners in eight cities, as well as the National Community Policing Conference hosted by the COPS Office in August 2011 in Washington, D.C. Selected sites have included:

  • Brunswick, Ohio;
  • Fort Worth, Texas;
  • Gadsden, Ala.;
  • Glendale, Ariz.;
  • Nashville, Tenn.;
  • Thornton, Colo.;
  • Tukwila, Wash.; and
  • Youngstown, Ohio.

In many instances, officers from other applying cities are travelling to these sites to learn how to conduct the Cops & Kids training for their own police departments. Additional trainings are also being scheduled in 2012 in the following cities and towns that applied:

  • Albany, N.Y.
  • Buffalo, N.Y.
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Memphis, Tenn.
  • Newark, N.J.
  • Rock Hill, S.C.
  • Sacramento Area, Calif.
  • Richmond, Calif.
  • River Rouge, Mich.
  • Virginia Beach, Va.
  • West Valley City, Utah
  • Wellington, Fla.

If your city did not submit an application earlier this year, but is interested in the training, please contact Mark Meyers at the Fred Rogers Company at meyers@fredrogers.org.

The Cops & Kids Training Program
Children are almost always present when police officers perform their duties. Encounters with police can make a profound impact on children. Children also can make officers' work much easier or harder and considerably safer or more dangerous.

The Connecting Cops & Kids training program builds on expertise both in child development and the day-to-day reality of police work, having been developed by the Fred Rogers Company in collaboration with the Boston, New Haven, and Pittsburgh police departments, the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence and the Child Witness to Violence Project. Cops & Kids combines personal narratives and film footage of actual, non-scripted situations involving New Haven police officers interacting with children or responding to calls involving children, from friendly encounters to intense conflicts.

The Fred Rogers Company first produced the Cops & Kids training five years ago with support from the Heinz Endowments and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

"We developed Cops & Kids to help build less adversarial and more collaborative relationships among police officers and children and families. An effort that increases everyone's safety in this way is as important today as ever," said Fred Rogers Company President and Pittsburgh Public Schools Board Member William H. Isler.

"This training opens officers' eyes to the ways that kids can be allies when it comes to fighting crime," said Thomas Klawinski, Detective Sargeant for the New Kensington, Pa., Police Department. "It causes officers to look at juveniles not as a problem, but as a wealth of information. If they trust you, they're going to help you. It also teaches officers that other agencies in the community-which we sometimes think of as roadblocks-can be great assets and partners."

"No police officer should graduate from the Academy without this training," said Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., Police Chief Darrel Stephens.

Using a flexible curriculum, the Connecting Cops & Kids program:

  • Helps police officers build trust in communities they are sworn to serve and promote greater cooperation and reporting of criminal activity; 
  • Increases their safety and effectiveness while on patrol and as first responders; 
  • Promotes greater preparedness to help children who are in trouble and prevent further victimization
  • Improves the perception of officers as role models for children;
  • Strengthens partnerships with social service agencies that work with the same youth officers encounter on a daily basis; and 
  • Enhances officers' community policing skills and ability to improve public safety.

At the heart of the program is a series of professionally-produced documentary videos that serve as jumping-off points for discussions. Training topics include:

  • Kids: How They See Police-understanding how children's perceptions of police change as they grow older, connecting with kids in age-appropriate ways, using positive interactions to increase safety and job effectiveness;
  • Weighing Options-providing initial support to children exposed to violent or criminal behavior, exploring options for responding to children in trouble, using officer authority to help children at risk;
  • Children and Trauma-recognizing situations that are traumatic for children, understanding how children experience and react to trauma, responding appropriately to traumatized children; and
  • Partners in Crisis-getting acquainted and building working partnerships with the local social service agencies that support and advocate for children and families exposed to violence.

Hundreds of officers, from veterans to new recruits, have enhanced their community oriented policing efforts by participating in the program. They credit it with helping them develop new skills and increasing their awareness of strategies and partners they can turn to when dealing with children and teens.

"Cops & Kids gave me and my department some very valuable resources for developing our community oriented policing unit," said Curtis Boyd, Lead Community Resource Officer for the Port Authority Police of Allegheny County, Pa. "It helped us reach kids and reach out to other police departments to learn from them. The program also helps us make the case that preventive policing really does work."

"Cops & Kids is a terrific and important program," said Sue Ascione, Executive Director of the Children's Advocacy Center of Lawrence County, Pa. "It is very valuable for officers to learn how they can be helped by children's advocacy organizations and how to hook up kids with organizations they might not otherwise connect with."

In early 2011, applications to participate were invited from entities including but not limited to:

  • Offices of the mayor, city manager, or city council members;
  • Municipal police departments;
  • Police academies;
  • Tribal police departments;
  • Housing authority police departments;
  • Transit police departments;
  • Military police departments;
  • Campus security departments;
  • Juvenile probation programs;
  • School police departments;
  • Postsecondary educational institutions that provide pre-professional and continuing education for law enforcement officers; and
  • Social service/human service agencies and other community organizations.

Trainings will be held at a number of sites throughout the country, as well as online, at no cost to participating cities or their police departments and officers. An effort will be made to hold trainings in easily accessible areas for a wide range of departments and populations. Follow-up support will be provided for local trainers interested in facilitating additional workshops. If you are interested in this program, please contact Mark Meyers at the Fred Rogers Company at meyers@fredrogers.org.