OCEANFRONT — One day in November, police Sgt. Lonnie Cain and other members of the Second Precinct were having dinner to see a transferring colleague off when a woman approached their table to introduce her daughter.
Amber Keeney of Salem Woods said her daughter thought police were scary.
They invited the family to the precinct because, as Cain said later, part of the job is building relationships with the citizens officers serve. Sgt. James Gordon, also of the Second Precinct, said it’s especially important to interact with young people.
Keeney came with four kids in tow, including MacKenzie, who is 4.
Officer Laura Hanson gave her stickers and pencils, though the girl seemed to favor a blue stuffed animal they also gave her.
They showed her the office, a control room, vehicles, how bright the lights are when they turn them on. They assured her they didn’t bite.
Officers even said she could climb aboard an ATV, the kind of ride that comes in handy at the Oceanfront.
“You want to get on this?” Cain asked.
“I can get on with you,” Keeney said.
She was still shy, though she eventually checked it out with Mom. “It’s all right,” Cain said. “It’s stage fright. We all get it.”
She brightened when they showed her a garage filled with bikes. She looked up, held the stuffed animal, smiled a bit.
“You never know,” her mom said. “Some day you might want to be a police officer.”
The tour continued. Back inside, there was candy.
After goodbyes were said, MacKenzie was asked whether she’d had a good time. She nodded yes.
Keeney explained that her daughter had never had a chance to speak to an officer.
“I was trying to explain to her they’re good people,” she said. “They keep us safe.”
After this story originally ran in the print edition of The Independent News, Keeney said her daughter seems less intimidated.
“Now when she sees a police car, she says, ‘Look, there’s your friends.'”
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