You probably read Democrat reporter Nicole Cooke’s recent story about a new Sedalia Police Department initiative right here in the pages of the Sedalia Democrat. SPD is going to start issuing positive tickets to children who are doing good things.
Of course at some point in the future there might be an awkward moment where a child congratulates their parents for receiving a real ticket. It might even lead to a crime-ridden future where the people of tomorrow are addicted to getting tickets from the police because they formed a positive association with that action when they were a child. Maybe in the future all tickets will be positive tickets and criminals will be punished by not receiving positive encouragement in the form of a piece of paper.
All right, so maybe not.
Friendly local police officers all over the country have been getting a bad rap. Yes, on a national level there have been a few officers that have handled their individual situations inappropriately but the odds are good that the officer standing in front of you at any given time is a good person who works hard and only wants to make their community a safer place.
And it seems this initiative is the latest in a series of steps to normalize relations between law enforcement officers and the general public. Yeah, if you’re looking to improve your future public image it is important to get to them when they’re young.
There was a time during my childhood when I found police officers a little intimidating: They have a fancy uniform, a large flashlight and a gun – who knows what other things they might have! At any moment they could determine I’m not behaving appropriately and the situation could deteriorate quickly!
But if one of them would have handed me a positive ticket with a McDonald’s voucher on it then the police and I would have been friends for life. It didn’t take much to buy off little Travis: I devoured book after book in elementary school mostly because I was scoring free pizza through the Book It! Program. Oh, and because it was increasing my language skills, I guess.
Here’s another reason why it will probably be a successful program: kids love accumulating stuff. You probably know I volunteer some of my time each summer as a counselor at two summer camps for children with bleeding disorders. During one counselor orientation they gave us a bag of tokens and told us to hand them out whenever the campers were doing what they should be doing.
I was skeptical at first but the kids were crazy enthusiastic about it; I think the competition aspect helped sell the concept. I’m a better camper than him, so I’ve got to have more of those! I even told them that these particular tokens couldn’t be pooled and traded in for any fabulous prizes and could never be exchanged for real American dollars but they didn’t care – they just wanted to cooperate so they could get more of them.
There’s probably some people out there who don’t like the idea of their children receiving yet another physical piece of encouragement. There are people like James Harrison who believe children shouldn’t be rewarded for merely existing and that it’s important to make them know in no uncertain terms whether or not they’ve lost.
There will always be time later for them to get some real tickets, and to learn about the real world. Maybe there can be a system where you can trade in childhood positive tickets for discounts on the fines paid on real tickets in the future.
Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.