Oakland police bring back the Teddy Bear Patrol
on September 22, 2011
Kindergarten and first grade students gathered in the auditorium of Horace Mann Elementary Wednesday afternoon cheered as Oakland Police officers handed teachers a special community policing accessory—four brown teddy bears, with blue bows tied around their necks.
“We want children to know that the police department cares about them,” said Brenda Ivey, an OPD police service technician.
Three weeks ago, Horace Mann students were placed on protective lockdown inside their classrooms for nearly the entire second day of school when robbery suspects barricaded themselves in a house nearby.
So when Oakland Police Department officials decided recently to revive a program called the Teddy Bear Patrol, they started at Horace Mann. The program, which was ended six years ago due to lack of funding, allows OPD officers to carry teddy bears in their patrol cars and give them to children as symbols of comfort in stressful and tragic situations. TheTeddyBearPatrol.org, a non-profit sponsored by the Oakland Police Athletics League, donated 500 bears to bring the service back to the department, with more bears to be donated in the fall.
“We want children to know that police officers are people they can talk to if they need help,” said Felicia Verdin, supervisor of the OPD’s Neighborhood Services Division.
Police officers have two duties—to protect and to serve, Ivey said. Communities witness police officers enforce the law, “but they also need to know that they are there to serve, to counsel, and nurture,” she added.
From the broad daylight killing of three-year-old Carlos Nava this summer to the recent gold robberies that have targeted young people, “our children have been caught in the crossfire,” Ivey said. OPD officers hope that handing out teddy bears will serve as a relationship builder between children and police.
Horace Mann principal Alanna Lim, who has led the school for eight years, said she believes the students handled the unexpected lockdown well. She hopes the teddy bear exchange will allow kids to see “that the police are friendly and helpful if they ever have any problems,” she said.
Before the kickoff event ended, OPD covered safety procedures with the children, including what to do if a stranger approached them or what to do in an earthquake. Students were then given gold police badge stickers and temporary OPD shield tattoos. They took a safety oath to certify them as “kiddy cops” before heading back to class. Later that afternoon, the teachers said, the children in each first grade and kindergarten class would be invited to name their class bear.
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