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Disproportionate
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Spotlight: Rocky Hill

Spotlight

Helping police see the world
through a kid’s eyes

Cops and kids unplugged
in Rocky Hill

Torrington cops and kids
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Cops and kids unplugged

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that kids aged 8 to 18 spend 53 hours a week using electronic media. That includes devices like mp3 players, cell phones, video games and computers. Figure in time in school, which averages around 35 hours a week, and you have to wonder: Does anyone ever climb a tree anymore? There’s actually a term for this phenomenon: nature deficit disorder.

Rocky Hill Youth and Family Services Director Lori Stanczyc resolved to do something about the problem in her community and wanted to also address relations between police officers and youth. “Cops and Kids Unplugged” was born, a program where police officers and middle and high school students enjoy low-tech activities together. On a given day, they might be visiting a water park or helping elderly Rocky Hill residents with yard work. Today they are at the Newington ropes course experiencing what their facilitator, Mike Caouette, calls “challenge by choice.”

The primary challenge they’ll face today is a towering rock wall.

“I’m not too good at rock climbing,” Brianna calls down from halfway up the wall. The ten-year-old had said that halfway was her limit when she was suiting up in her helmet and harness. But the police officers and kids on the ground keep urging her on. “You’re doing good!” So Brianna pushes herself and gets nearly to the top before starting her descent. The second her feet hit the woodchips, she runs up to a staffer and asks, “Can I do it again and try again?”

Brianna describes the experience as “kind of scary. If you look down, you probably shouldn’t.” But she says she learned an important lesson up there in the trees: “Always keep going.”

She’s also learned something about police officers on these outings. “I never knew that police could be fun,” she says.

Officer Sarah Raymond was part of Brianna’s cheering section on the climb. Her experience as a softball coach is obvious as she keeps a steady stream of banter going to give kids who struggle with the wall an extra boost. “It gives you a different spin on work,” Raymond says of these days outdoors. “Just seeing the look of accomplishment on some of these kids’ faces.”

For Officer Steve Morgan, Cops and Kids Unplugged is a natural. “My favorite job I ever has was being a camp counselor,” says Morgan, who is the son of a teacher and a police officer. He also teaches in a life skills program at the middle school and is a DARE officer. When he gets outdoors with this crowd, he’s something of a kid himself. As the morning starts off with a game that’s a cross between dodge ball and freeze tag, cries of “Steve’s cheating!” fill the woods.

His hope is that kids come away from the program saying of him, “he’s not such a bad guy.” For Morgan, that learning goes both ways as he realizes “somewhere there’s a good kid in there.”

Brendan, 15, and his sister, Kelly, 11, joined the program “just for fun,” he says. But he admits that before Cops and Kids Unplugged he saw police officers as “just rule enforcers.” “I thought they were mean,” Kelly chimes in. Today, the children see things differently. “Now I think they like to have fun — just like kids,” Brendan says.

Side By Side: Police and Youth program





Content Last Modified on 11/2/2016 3:16:54 PM