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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Officer Friendly doesn’t work here any more

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Whatever happened to Officer Friendly? asks Eric Easter of Urban News Service.

“I remember Officer Friendly used to come from 1st to 4th grade, teaching us that the police were our friends,” Chris Newman wrote on Old Time D.C. “Then, in 5th grade, it went from ‘I am your friend’ to ‘I am not to be trifled with.’ That is a very jarring experience.”

Most police departments have dropped “Officer Friendly” programs, writes Easter.

However, New Jersey legislators hope to put Friendly back on the school beat. The Assembly has passed a bill requiring schools to teach children how to interact with the police “in a manner marked by mutual cooperation and respect,” reports Mary Emily O’Hara of NBC News.

Assembly Bill A1114 passed unanimously — but it’s controversial, writes O’Hara.

When the legislation was first introduced for the 2016 session, critics said it appeared to place the onus for police interactions largely on kids — mandating only that children be taught “the role and responsibilities of a law enforcement official in providing for public safety; and an individual’s responsibilities to comply with a directive from a law enforcement official.” An amended version of the bill now requires that schoolchildren also be taught about “an individual’s rights under law in interacting with a law enforcement official.”

If passed, the K-12 curriculum will be developed with the help of the ACLU, NAACP and other groups and incorporated into social studies classes.

New Jersey-based teacher and activist Zellie Imani called the idea “victim blaming.”

“This legislation does not empower young people, especially those living in brown and Black communities,” Imani said. “Instead, it empowers law enforcement by allowing them to continue to evade accountability for abuse and misconduct while forcing the burden on the public.”

Critics say police officers should be trained in how to interact respectfully with young people. (Isn’t this a standard part of police training?)

A new Texas law requires high schools to teach students how to interact with police, reports the Texas TribuneSenate Bill 30 also requires training for law enforcement officers in how to interact with civilians.

“Driver education and safety courses also would include instruction on what to do during traffic stops,” reports the Tribune. Training will include “the responsibility and duties of law enforcement, a person’s rights during an interaction, proper behavior for each party involved and how to file a complaint against an officer.”

Will it help?

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