Last Updated: 2014/2/23
History: Just to provide a bit of history, when my wife and I were down south on vacation, I received a call from a close friend who informed me about the tragedy in Newtown. This was absolutely heartbreaking for us and for our country. I immediately contacted our schools and staff and prepared to have police presence at the High School and the Elementary school the following day. I felt strongly that parents and children must know that we are their friends, and should be visible to ease the pain and concerns that children, parents, and staff were feeling. The school Psychologist believed that the kids don't know us and it may create more of a problem. I was so taken back when I was advised that this is not a good idea because this is something out of the norm, and we should not do this. In fact any police presence was not recommended. This absolutely was unacceptable. I would not accept this and I had an officer on the outside of the school the following day. After considering all of what was discussed, I told my wife that I need to do something over the top to build a relationship with not only all of our children, but cohesively with the parents and town alike. My thoughts were, I want to give each child a picture of us (Police), maybe put some interesting facts about us on the picture so maybe the parents may learn about their police officers as well. This was still just ok. I then told my wife about my idea about possibly making an officer trading card with our info on the back. Still not so fun. Then it struck me. Get the parents to take the kids to our station, have the kids approach us in public, meet the parents and kids, and then it hit me. Add the prizes to the mix. When they collect all cards, I stamp the book and enter their name into a drawing. If they don't win one of the main prizes, I will have some gift for every child that collects all of the cards. When my wife Diane asked me what kind of prizes, I though what every child would love, a new bike. She said "Why don't we donate the bike?" From there I took off with the program. There is a special binder that I had put together to easily store and view each card. The binder has every officers name so it is like a fun puzzle for the kids to complete, and parents can view as well. The children literally run into the police station to get our cards
I used my name to create an acronym. I named it the "P.E.T.E." program (Police Educational Trading Card Experience). The catch phrase for this program, which is a play on words for this community, and it can be used for any community in the country is "P.E.T.E. Works In Our Community." The goal is to build relationships with the precious resource of our children, parents, and police officers. The outpouring of support has gone practically viral. I want to share two quick examples which happened when we were distributing our cards to children with their parents. One parent was amazed with the creativeness of the program and said, "I have only lived in town for three years and I have not needed your services. I do not know anyone on your department, but to see the officers and their info on the back, I feel that I will know more about each member of your department, than I would living here for 20 years". The second woman who came in at 3:30 pm brought her son in to collect our cards. I gave him my card and suggested that he come back at 4 pm when he could get 2 more cards from the oncoming evening shift. An hour and a half later the child and mother came back and the boy recited to me from memory my information and said in front of his mother and two of my officers "You have been the Chief since 2005, you play the drums and guitar, and you are in a band". The mother laughed, my mouth was wide open, and my officers were speechless. I said to everyone in the room "this worked in just and hour and a half." It worked like magic. This child would never probably know anything about me. There are so many other countless stories and experiences that the children and officers have shared with me about this program. I believe in my unique program. We are meeting children and parents, and it clearly bridges gaps for children to approach our officers in a "neutral zone". Spread the word for our most precious resource, the children. It is working like magic in Essex!