National Rollout of Training Program Aims to Improve Police Interactions with Children

June 13, 2011

Connecting Cops & Kids Trainings Scheduled in Nine Cities

by Mark Meyers and Michael Karpman

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 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) to make the training available to police departments throughout the nation at no cost. Earlier this year, NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families assisted the Fred Rogers Company in soliciting applications for this training from cities across the country.

Trainings have now been scheduled with police departments and social service agency partners in eight cities, as well as the National Community Policing Conference hosted by the COPS Office this August in Washington, D.C. Selected sites include: 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 in the process of being scheduled for other cities and towns that applied.

About the Training

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. The training program was developed in collaboration with the Boston, New Haven and Pittsburgh police departments as well as child development specialists at Yale University and Boston Medical Center. 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.

"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.

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

  • Helps police officers build trust in communities and promote greater cooperation and reporting of criminal activity;
  • Increases their safety and effectiveness while on patrol and as first responders;
  • Prepares them 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.

Training topics include understanding how children's perceptions of police change as they grow older, providing support to children who are at risk or exposed to violent behavior, responding appropriately to traumatized children and building partnerships with 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.

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

Details: To learn more about the training, visit www.copskids.org. 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.

Mark Meyers is project coordinator for the Connecting Cops & Kids program at the Fred Rogers Company. Michael Karpman is senior outreach associate for NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families.