(NORTHHAMPTON, Mass.) — A Massachusetts police department said it ended a program that aimed to “positively engage” with elementary school students after residents raised concerns that it may scare children who’ve had negative experiences with police.
The Northampton Police Department said it decided to scrap its High Five Friday program, which kicked off in December, after residents said that some children — particularly minorities and undocumented immigrants — may be uncomfortable with uniformed police officers greeting them at school in the morning.
Ninety percent of Northampton’s approximately 30,000 residents, though, are white, according to the most recent U.S. Census data.
“Concerns were shared that some kids might respond negatively to a group of uniformed officers at their school,” the police department said in a post on its Facebook page last week. “People were specifically concerned about kids of color, undocumented children, or any children who may have had negative experiences with the police.”
— WCVB-TV Boston (@WCVB) February 21, 2017
As of Wednesday morning, the post announcing the halt had racked up more more than 400 Facebook reactions and more than 300 comments.
Some Facebook users said the situation shedded light on the complex relationship between police and immigrants and/or people of color, but others were angry and unsympathetic to the complaints.
The program, intended to serve as a trust-building exercise, allowed officers to exchange “High Fives” with elementary school students once a month on a Friday. The department said it received mass support on social media, but concerns were raised at a recent school committee meeting.
The police chief, Jody Kasper, faced questions about the “long-term impacts of the program” and it was ultimately stopped, according to the department’s Facebook post.
The department said it enjoyed greeting the students and that it remains committed to exploring alternative programs to promote positive engagement.
“For a large portion of our population, this program may not seem controversial,” according to the Facebook post. “However, we cannot overlook the fact that this program may be received differently by some members of our community.”
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