New Cookies with Cops Program Comes to New Haven Elementary Schools – Yale Daily News | Wonder Mind Kids

Courtesy of Sergeant Ron Ferrante

Police officers are now visiting classrooms in elementary schools in the New Haven area to improve their department’s image in the community.

The Cookies with Cops program was launched in early September as part of the New Haven Police Department’s broader effort. Chief Karl Jacobson said he hopes the program will help children trust officers more and boost NHPD recruitment in the long term.

At the request of school administrators, school resource officers — sworn police officers who are stationed in schools and can make arrests — have visited elementary schools across the city, where they hand out stickers and toys, give a lecture on basic safety rules, and answer questions from the students.

“We hear a lot about the negative aspects of SROs and say, ‘Oh, that’s just the pipeline from school to prison,'” said NHPD chief Karl Jacobson. “Well, New Haven doesn’t want to be. We want to be the pipeline from school to police officer.”

The program is not universally loved; At least one parent raised concerns about the effort at a recent Education Committee meeting.

“Our children should not be the target of public relations campaigns by our local PD,” Camile Scott, parent of a third grader, told the board. “This is clearly a police recruitment tool.”

The program held its first event on Tuesday, October 4th at the Mauro Sheridan Magnet School. Students at Mrs. Bitterman’s The 4th graders were introduced to the SROs who spoke to the class about after-school and summer programs run by the police department.

Mayor Justin Elicker and Deputy Superintendent Viviana Conner also attended the event.

“One of our goals is to build relationships with families and communities,” Conner said. “And the police are part of our community. They’re one of those organizations that help our families, not just with one crime.”

Jacobson agreed and described the overall goal of the program as part of his quest for more “community policing” through NHPD engagement. Both he and Sergeant Ron Ferrante – head of the NHPD’s youth services division and head of the SRO program – stressed that another focus is encouraging students to trust and relate to the police in their neighborhoods and schools to interact.

So far, about a dozen New Haven schools have participated in the Cookies with Cops program.

Jacobson told the news that the SRO program brought more than 20 new officers to the NHPD.

I think it just encourages officers’ ability to have better interactions [with students] when something bad happens. But it’s also almost like a recruiting tool,” Jacobson said.

community criticism

Doubts about the program have also been rising among local community activists. Jahnice Cajigas, director of community organizing for the local youth activist group Citywide Youth Coalition, argued that SROs should not be promoted as classroom resources.

“I think it’s harmful to continue to crowd our students into rooms with police officers who understand the violence that many of our students experience in their communities,” she said.

Cajigas instead advocated reallocating resources from NHPD to citywide mental health and education funding initiatives, arguing that these programs would better serve New Haven’s students.

Justin Harmon, communications director for the Superintendent’s New Haven Public Schools Office, noted that the Cookies with Cops program seeks to address these concerns.

“There is research that suggests that any exposure to the police can be traumatizing or difficult for young children,” Harmon said. “The premise of the program is to try to decongest and normalize these contacts so they are not afraid to go to the police for help.”

Ferrante described the events as consistently positive, saying the visits are all about having fun with kids.

Origins and future of cookies with cops

For Ferrante, the idea of ​​offering police department programs in city schools came from his childhood. He cited an officer who would play kickball with his class as inspiration for him to become a police officer.

NHPD had a longtime Coffee with Cops program in New Haven where community members can discuss local issues with the police over a cup of coffee. Ferrante wanted to bring a similar level of police-community interaction to elementary schools, but substituted biscuits for coffee as a kid-friendly alternative.

Conner said she was excited about the idea after being approached by Ferrante. While the original idea was to roll out the program in one or two schools, there has been a lot of interest in the program from teachers and administrators.

Visits have been booked by the end of the year and Ferrante estimates that the SROs will have met over 1400 students by the end of the month, with many more to come.

Programs promoted during the class visits include the New Haven Police Activity League, a non-profit organization run by volunteer police officers that conducts both summer and after-school programs for New Haven youth.

“We have a jiu-jitsu program, we have taekwondo, we are starting a chess club,” Ferante said. “We try to find activities and events just for kids [non-sports] options.”

As for the future of Cookies with Cops, Jacobson expressed hopes for the potential for expansion. He also noted that the department has only five SROs, down from over a dozen before COVID-19.

“If I get more civil servants to work. I will expand [the program]’ Jacobson predicted.

NHPS has 31 pre-K-8, elementary and middle schools.

Ava Saylor

Ava Saylor is a contributing editor for WKND covering education and youth ministry. She is a junior at Ezra Stiles College, majoring in Political Science and Education.


Nathaniel Rosenberg reports on housing and homelessness for the news. Originally from Silver Spring, MD, he is a sophomore at Morse College.

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