Police trading cards hit the streets

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Wed., May. 18, 2011
Washington Elementary School second-graders Joey, Angel and Chrislynn take their first looks at the new Manchester Police Trading Cards. Photos by Martha Marteney.
Washington Elementary School second-graders Joey, Angel and Chrislynn take their first looks at the new Manchester Police Trading Cards. Photos by Martha Marteney.

As part of the "Cops and Kids" program, Manchester police officers are visiting elementary schools to meet with the school children to talk about home safety and to distribute the recently-released Manchester Police Department Trading Cards.

This is the fourth edition for the Police Trading Cards, which were last released six years ago. The purpose of the trading cards is to stimulate dialogue with the police in a positive environment. Children are invited to ask officers for their trading cards and to collect and trade them, similar to baseball cards. The department is optimistic that this will help the town’s youth build a positive attitude about police.

Each trading card features a police officer, providing not only information about the officer’s work experience, but also the individual’s hobbies and interests, and a personal message. It is hoped that the trading cards will demonstrate that every member of the police department is a unique individual, not a faceless uniform.

To encourage children to approach the police officers to ask for the trading cards, the Manchester Police Department is hosting a friendly competition. The first three children to collect the full set of 115 cards and bring the complete set with no duplicates to Community Relations Officer Stacey Forish will win a pizza party with Chief of Police Marc Montminy, plus a $50 gift card. The contest is open to children under the age of 14 and ends Dec. 31, 2011.

Before distributing the trading cards to the students at Washington Elementary School on March 13, Officers Robert Stanford, Jason Wagner and Brittney Cohen explained the program to the children and encouraged them to approach officers to ask for the individual’s trading card. Stanford is one of the Police Area Representatives for the west side of town and the Washington School neighborhood, and Wagner is a PAR for the east side and Nathan Hale.

The next time they see him in the neighborhood, Stanford invited the children to come up to him and ask how his day is going, provided he is not in the middle of a police matter. “It’s a great way to interact with the kids,” said Stanford.

“The trading cards are really great, because the kids know then [the officer] is a safe person to go to,” said Washington Elementary School Principal Karen Gray.

While at Washington Elementary School, the officers also reviewed home safety issues. The officers explained that children at home alone should not answer the door for strangers, or let someone calling on the telephone know that they are home alone. If someone is at the door or on the phone, the child should give the impression that an adult is in another room of the house. “If you get scared, call 911,” said Stanford. “That’s what the police are there for.”

The children also learned about the equipment the police carry with them at all times. “Our most important piece of equipment we carry is the walkie-talkie,” said Stanford, so that the police department knows where each officer is located at all times. The children were given an opportunity to handle the handcuffs and to ask questions about the use of pepper spray and tasers.

Cohen, who graduated from the Police Academy on April 6, explained to the children the process of becoming a police officer. After graduating from at least a two-year college, the prospective officer must first secure placement with a police department before attending the Police Academy. The academy is a six-month program where the prospective officers live and train together.

It was also explained that before an officer is certified to use either pepper spray or a taser, the officer must experience the use of the deterrent first hand. While pepper spray has a longer-lasting effect, the taser is more intense. “Yes, it hurts a lot,” said Wagner. “We use it for someone who is actively fighting us or not following our verbal instructions.” The officers used the discussion as an opportunity for the children to understand the situations in which deterrents must be used, and to learn how the officers decide what actions to take.

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