Leo F. Giblyn Elementary School buzzed with excitement as fourth-graders welcomed officers from the Freeport Police Department in a special assembly on Nov. 9, officially launching the school’s annual Adopt-a-Cop program.
“Each class is assigned one to three officers who visit them multiple times throughout the year,” Lt. Andrew Berg explained. “The primary goal is to foster positive relations within the community, allowing the students to become familiar with the officers and understand that they are there to provide assistance. By dispelling fear and building trust, the program aims to create a sense of security and ensure that the students view the police as allies who are dedicated to helping and supporting them.”
Giblyn Principal Amy Lederer beamed during the officers’ introductions to the students.
“We’re looking forward to building positive relationships with our outstanding officers, who will help us learn about keeping a positive attitude, being responsible and respecting ourselves and our community,” Lederer said, and then turned to the uniformed adoptees. “With your guidance and support, our children have a greater understanding of responsibility and citizenship,” she told them. “We thank you for making a positive difference in their lives.”
Some of the students took the stage to sing “Finding a Way to Peace,” a song written by their classmates in the Freeport Summer Arts Academy. The song served as a tribute to the newly adopted mentors from the police force.
Then, students from each classroom stepped forward to announce their adopted cops for the rest of the school year, and thanked the officers for their dedication to community service.
The program ended with the singing of “Do the Good You Know” before students returned to their classrooms, each accompanied by a member of the Police Department.
Berg emphasized the flexibility of the activities based on each classroom’s needs. Program participants determine the level of discussion appropriate for the students, ensuring a positive and informative experience. Some activities focus on teaching students about safety protocols and how to seek assistance from police officers in various situations. Others are decidedly less serious, such as arts and crafts and holiday-themed events like the Valentine’s Day celebration at the Bayview Avenue School.
As the school year continues, the officers will visit the classrooms, correspond with students by way of letters, and host virtual meetings from police headquarters Now in its 27th year, the Adopt-a-Cop program has become a beacon of positive interaction between the department and the community.
In 1996, Deputy Inspector Michael Woodward initiated the program at the Bayview school, where he met a 9-year-old girl who told him she was worried about the future. She told Woodward “that if she found a gun, she would keep it for protection, as she feared dying because so many people have guns that she won’t be alive in 10 years,” Woodward wrote in a report to the U.S. Conference of Mayors that year.
What started with six officers volunteering their time has evolved into a program involving nearly 30 officers spending time with fourth-graders at the Bayview, New Visions, Giblyn and Archer Street schools.
One of the program’s goals is to reassure children about their safety, and to show them how they can avoid potentially hazardous situations. The officers and students also discuss more positive ways to resolve conflict, or express anger or frustration, than violence or substance use.
“The Adopt A Cop program is an outstanding method to develop a comfortable and friendly relationship between our police officers and the fourth-graders here in Freeport,” Mayor Robert Kennedy said.
And, given its popularity, the Police Department and the school district look to continue the program well into the future, teaching students about law enforcement and forging bonds among the village’s youngest citizens and the police while offering kids a memorable and enjoyable experience.