School children from the San Diego area high five SDPD officers as they enter the Mid City police station for a guided tour. Photo Credit: Cassia Pollock

When school children were asked if they’d like to be police officers someday at a tour of a local Mid City police station, dozens of tiny hands shot up in the air.

Children from the San Diego area toured a Mid City police station on Wednesday morning for a pilot program that aims to encourage positive relationships between local police and the community, starting with young people.

The students selected are participating in the “Readers in the Heights” program from the United Way of San Diego County organization, that helps children to continue reading over the summer season. They each got a chance to learn a little more about the officers who serve their neighborhoods.

About 30 school children from kindergarten through third grade were divided into groups of ten, and guided through different activities. That included reading books, coloring, speaking with officers, meeting dogs from the canine unit and learning how to fingerprint a cop.

“I want to sit next to a cop!” cried one little boy emphatically, while sitting at a table filled with crayons and coloring bookmarks.

Free books provided for children at a tour of an SDPD Mid-City station, organized by United Way. Photo Credit: Cassia Pollock

“We realized with the narrative that’s going on, on the larger national scale and with the tapestry of real acrimony that’s happening in communities all over the country, and now sadly, also in San Diego…” Laurie Coskey said, the CEO and President of United Way. “We believed that our work with young children, everybody’s work with young children, is a way to change the narrative for children and their lives going forward.”

At the end of the tour, the students get a stick-on police badge, a “Community Leadership” certificate, two books and a book bag.

“Something more important is to be inspired, not just by our police officers, but how they’re going to have an opportunity to pick a book and enjoy the love of reading,” Chief Shelley Zimmerman said, while she attended the event.

The tour took place in City Heights which has the highest concentration of youth in San Diego County, which makes it home to  a large number of vulnerable children, according to United Way representatives.

“We were all so pleased to see almost every hand go up to say that we want to be police officers, but with that comes education and the joy of learning,” Zimmerman said.

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