SEPTA Police's Parental Push to Change Kids' Perceptions of Officers

You have made your child afraid of me.

It’s the impression, SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel says, parents leave with their kids when pointing to police officers and saying: If you’re bad the officer will arrest you.

“Unfortunately it happens every day,” Nestel told NBC10 on Wednesday.

Hoping to combat the unintended, but negative message, the transit authority’s top cop is developing a small card to make parents aware of the consequences of their words.

Dear Parent,

I know there is no tougher job than being a parent.
I suspect that you didn't think of this but when you told your child that I will arrest them if they are bad, you have made your child afraid of me.
If your child gets separated from you, is scared or in danger, I would love to be the person your child looks for to feel safe.
Next time you see a police officer, think about introducing your child. We want to be their friend.

-- A Concerned Police Officer

“The point of it is to educate parents to make us the people that their kids run to instead of run away from,” Nestel said.

Nestel posted the first pass to Twitter on Monday. He’s making tweaks as he gets feedback from followers. In the coming days, the language will be finalized and then cards will be printed up for the 260 officers policing the city’s trains, buses, trolleys and transit hubs.

The chief sees the card as a nonconfrontational way to address the issue with parents who are face-to-face with police and other citizens in close quarters.

“Just smile, give them the card and walk away. No conflict. Just give the parent a second to read it to themselves and hopefully think about the message they’re sending their child,” he said.

You can share your suggestions with Nestel through his Twitter account.

Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter and Facebook.

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