Saturday, March 21, 2009

Young kids' commentary

Last Thursday, while awaiting Obama's motorcade, I found myself enjoying a neighborly conversation with two kids who live on the block.

The little boy, perhaps age 5, told me that when he grows up he would like to be a cop. The little girl, perhaps age 7, told him that their mother wouldn't let the little boy be a cop because cops kill people.

I quickly chimed in, explaining cops only hurt people when those people are doing really, really bad things.

The kids corrected me immediately. The little boy -- a kindergartner -- said, "nuh uh, because sometimes the cops take those sticks and hit people over and over and they die."

The kids were right: Sometimes some police officers use force for brutality rather than protection.

The kids had learned about such incidents from their mother and incarcerated older brother. Their young minds are likely trying to reconcile those truths with the truths of their experiences -- the officer who smiled and said hi to the kids as they sat on the curb, the motorcycle cop who waved at them while on patrol.

Perhaps these are the experiences that prompt a child to say, "I want to be a cop when I grow up." Certainly these experiences help create trusting relationships between the community and the police, even when so many families have good reason to mistrust.

As I prepared to head on my way down the street, I said to the boy, "You know what, you are right. Sometimes we hear about cops who behave badly. That's why we need even more good people like you to be cops."

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