(NewsNation) — A police department in Ohio has come up with a new strategy. It’s turning getting a ticket into a good memory — at least for kids.
Officers in Brunswick Hills are on the lookout for children doing good. Things like wearing their bicycle helmet, picking up trash or helping a person in need will earn them a ticket as part of the “caught being good” citation program.
The citation can then be traded in for a toy and a tour of the Brunswick Hills Police Department.
“We wanted to interact with our children. We want to get to know them; we want to see them out and about with things that are going on in this world,” Chief Tim Sopkovich said on “Morning in America.” And these past couple of years, we want to see our children, we want to meet them, we want them to look up to law enforcement and respect us.”
The “caught being good” citation program allows the Brunswick Hills police the opportunity to get to know the community and its children, which Sopkovich said is the most important thing.
The idea for the citations came from a school resource officer who would jokingly issue citations for $1 million because he kept seeing kids do good things in school. It was a great idea with positive feedback that the police department decided to introduce to the community.
“If we see a child doing something good — outside playing even — we want our officers to stop, talk to them, get to know them. And maybe someday this impression could be good and they’ll look up to law enforcement and want to be a police officer,” he said.
Sopkovich explains there is great respect between the police department and the community. There are many events throughout the year that continue to build that mutual respect, and this is a way for the police department to connect with the youngest generation.
“We want to get our children involved. We want them to know that we’re here to help them and take care of them,” Sopkovich said.
“We see kids out there setting up lemonade stands, just hanging out in the parks. Some of our kids are out fishing and just cleaning up after themselves when they’re having fun and hanging out at our ponds,” Sopkovich said. “There’s just so much, but I think this program is just trying to get my officers involved with them, get to know them. So, if there is something that’s going on in the neighborhood, they’re stopping us and telling us what’s happening. And then we can help them further.”
The officers are building the trust and respect of the kids in the community. Once that trust is built, Sopkovich believes it will help them feel comfortable coming to his officers when something is wrong.
“I wouldn’t be where I’m at in law enforcement if it wasn’t for years ago, when a police officer stopped and talked with me, let me sit in his police car and showed me around. And then from that day forward, I wanted to be a police officer,” Sopkovich said.
He hopes this program can influence, and maybe change, a young person’s life and give them a career path.
Sopkovich said that their police department isn’t getting as many officers as in the past. There used to be thousands of people taking tests to be police officers, but now they are only getting a couple of hundred.
In fact, recruitment has been a huge issue for departments all around the country.
“This is a way for us to maybe get the right career path for a young individual,” Sopkovich said.