Coloring with a cop aims to build relationships with community

By Troy Jefferson, The Virginia Gazette
Original article HERE

The county police department is trying to improve relationships within the community and they’re taking an unconventional route: coloring.

The police department hosts a “coloring with a cop” event each month with the aim of strengthening the bond between kids and law enforcement.

“I think it’s important that kids get to see that we have an interest in them,” said master officer Jamie Lilley. “It’s important that young kids know that we are here for them and not against them. A lot of times I think kids now with all the technology might get a different perspective of what officers do.”

Lilley started the event in February 2016.

“I was sitting at my desk one day trying to figure out what we could do with kids that they would like to do and have a rhyming title and I saw a coloring book that the department ordered and thought ‘hey, coloring with a cop,'” Lilley recalled.

Susana Sanchez took her 5-year-old son, Lorenzo, to the coloring with a cop event last Wednesday and said the exposure was good for her child.

“It’s spring break so we wanted to do something fun and do something different,” Sanchez. “I think (coloring with a cop) is a great idea. It makes the officers a lot more approachable to the kids so they won’t be scared of someone in uniform.”

“It doesn’t take much to show the kids that we care,” Lilley said.

Lilley said the community events pay dividends in the long run.

“Sometimes people will talk to us if something is wrong if we bring the event to them it isn’t seen as snitching, they’re more likely to talk to us,” Lilley said. “As an adult we want to know what’s going on in your community, how can we help.”

During one of the community events, residents from the Forest Glen neighborhood told Lilley, they were having a problem with trash dumping. Lilley said the officers were able to address the issue quickly and wouldn’t have known about it if it wasn’t for the event.

The county officers also host a “coffee with a cop” for the older audience and has plans to start a “cupcake with a cop” event.