Police officers can be known for handing out tickets to citizens committing a crime, but now local kids will be rewarded with tickets from Sedalia Police Department officers for doing a good deed.
The Positive Ticket program kicked off this week at SPD in an effort to promote positive interactions between children and law enforcement officers. Patrol officers have each been given a set amount of tickets to hand out each month when they see a child committing a good deed.
“If officers see a child doing something positive, as far as anything like riding a bicycle with a helmet to picking up trash or doing something to help out their community or coming forward about something that’s going on in their community, we want to positively reinforce that behavior and show that we appreciate their persistence and the fact they’re doing something positive,” said Officer Casey DeVorss, who came up with the idea of bringing the program to Sedalia.
Each ticket handed out includes a coupon for a free treat at McDonald’s such as an ice cream cone or french fries. The program hasn’t cost the department anything — McDonald’s donated the coupons and other agencies donated the money to have the “tickets” printed.
The main intention of the program is to encourage positive relations between officers and the public, instead of teaching kids officers are scary.
“We want to have that positive interaction with the children early on. That’s what helps create that interaction for years to come as far as assistance with cases and them feeling comfortable in coming to us for help,” DeVorss said.
“I don’t know how many times I go to eat and there’s (a parent who tells me) ‘I told Johnny that if he doesn’t behave you’re going to take him to jail.’ We actually don’t like hearing that because you’re scaring the child. The child is being told from an early age to be frightened of us basically and that’s not how the system should work.”
While local kids will receive the main benefits of the program, DeVorss said he thinks SPD officers will see some benefits themselves.
“We’re in a profession, I’ve been doing this 10 years as of June, for 10 years I’m hired on a job where I’m basically paid to go around and find people messing up,” he said. “Now, I don’t think the kids will realize how much they’re going to be helping us out because now we get to go out and actually focus on finding someone doing something positive or right.”
Most Sedalia kids know that SPD officers carry around silver badge stickers, which are handed out frequently. DeVorss said the officers are only given a limited amount of positive tickets each month, so kids shouldn’t expect to receive them as often as badge stickers.
“There is a limit on it. … I want officers to actually have to look and find something,” he said. “It’s not going to be something where kids come up and ask, ‘hey do you have any coupons?’ like we do stickers. It’s something they’re going to have to actually earn.”
DeVorss said he came across the idea late last year from other departments across the country and in Canada. After some research, he found that communities that implemented the program have seen improvement in relations between the public and law enforcement.
“Especially a community our size, I think a program like this will definitely be beneficial because a lot of us are familiar with who we’re dealing with and the kids,” DeVorss said. “We’ve seen where we’ve dealt with the parents and now the children as well. … I think in the years to come we’ll start to see the benefit of this in the community.”
DeVorss said other local businesses are welcome to participate in the program. For more information, contact DeVorss at 660-826-8100.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.