For several years, Sgt. Brian Randazzo has been reaching out to children in Voorhees.
He is part of the Adopt a Cop program, a way for police to develop relationships with students in lower grades.
Randazzo, who has 25 years with the Voorhees police force, said he talks to third graders about safety issues which opens up lines of communication between students and police.
“It’s awesome that we have great working relationships with our schools,” he said.
Superintendent of Schools Raymond Brosel coordinates events with Police Chief Keith Hummel.
Randazzo said he saw that a similar program was in another town and decided to adopt it.
Officers go in once a month to Osage, Kresson, Hamilton, Signal Hill schools as well as Kellman Brown Academy. They talk to students about safety during health class.
The first thing Randazzo does is introduce himself and talk about being a police officer.
“I want the kids to see me as a human being first so they are not so afraid of this uniform,” Randazzo said. “Even though we wear this uniform we’re still people deep down inside.”
He said he has kids look at patches and badges to be able to recognize officers.
“We want a positive influence to go into our kids’ lives,” Randazzo said.
He said he remembers when an officer visited his class when he was a child.
“I just remember looking up to him thinking he was something special,” Randazzo said.
He said the whole effort is based on the McGruff the Crime Dog program.
One unique thing Voorhees police officers do is to have baseball card style cards with their pictures on it.
“The kids love this kind of stuff,” Randazzo said, noting it is a way to relate to students.
He shows videos and discusses items like dangerous strangers, bully alert (dealing with anger, conflict, and violence), people being different but alike, gun safety, drug-free kids, and bicycle and pedestrian safety. At the end of the year they take a tour of a police vehicle.
Randazzo said they are reinforcing what teachers and parents teach their children at school and at home.
“Between the parents, the teachers, and the officers hopefully the kids will understand this stuff,” he said. “My mission is to build these relationships with kids.”
Randazzo said his work with young children makes it easier for officers assigned to higher levels because kids are used to cops and can approach them.
He said recently a third grader called police because he found a gun in the woods and he followed the safety procedure: stop, don’t touch, leave the area, tell an adult. It turned out to be toy gun but the officer praised the child for following procedure.
“It is getting across and it’s really fun,” Randazzo said.
He said students being comfortable with him is the most rewarding part of the Adopt a Cop program.