DuBOIS — Elementary-aged children had the opportunity to get their fingerprints taken and tour the Sandy Township Police Department as part of the Children’s Paw Prints With the Police event initiated by students in the Administration of Justice program at Penn State DuBois.
The goal of the partnership was to improve the safety of area children, as well as to foster a relationship between the community and police officers, according to Lecturer of Administration of Justice Selena Price.
Children were offered fingerprinting that parents will be able to keep on record. In the event a child would ever go missing, fingerprints could aid in finding them, police said. Families were also given the opportunity to see some of the equipment officers use on the job, including tactical gear and the inside of a police car.
Police Chief Kris Kruzelak, along with Officers Josh Johnston and Jesse Cole talked to children and families about their desire to have open discussions and to work together with the public to keep their communities safe.
“We want to build that relationship and trust in the community and let younger people know that we are here to help them,” said Kruzelak. “We just want to be more approachable.”
Recently, Kruzelak noted that the department also participated in Halloween events and distributed out more than 200 trick-or-treat bags to children, in addition to participating in “Coffee With a Cop,” as a way to interact with the citizens they serve.
Price said her goals are similar to those of Kruzelak, which has led her to develop these programs in her classes
“Every class I teach this, they are required to pair up with either the police, courts or corrections to try and just bridge that gap with the communities and educate them on what they do and that the police are there for them,” said Price.
“I did this project in hopes to spark an interest in the field of law enforcement or criminal justice,” said senior Hayley Knepper, who is interested in pursuing a career as a prosecutor or state trooper.
“We just want to help people have a conversation with police and be comfortable and work with them,” said junior Savannah Terwilliger, who wants to become a juvenile probation officer. “It’s about building a relationship.”
Price said some other Administration of Justice students are planning another program, Literacy With Law Enforcement, from 5-6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3, at the Penn State DuBois Campus Library. The public will provide an opportunity to meet a state trooper and the Nittany Lion.
“Their angle will be educating and literacy and how important it is,” said Price. “And also to let people know you can be comfortable around police.”