Bags of children’s toys: The newest tools for Monmouth County cops
FREEHOLD BOROUGH — For young children, a police response to their home can be traumatizing — even though the officers are there to help.
To make things easier on both law enforcement and kids caught in the middle of a police response, cops throughout Monmouth County are getting equipped with bags of goodies that can calm kids' nerves and keep them distracted.
Through an initiative from the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, called Operation Cops Care, 5,000 nylon bags filled with teddy bears, coloring books and crayons, stress balls and water bottles will be distributed to each police department.
"If they say they want 100, we'll give them 100," Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said during an announcement of the initiative Thursday morning. "And this will be a continuing thing."
Gramiccioni said many officers — especially those who don't have kids of their own — may be unsure how to handle children who are innocent bystanders of a domestic violence incident or medical emergency.
Aberdeen Police Chief John Powers said nothing pulls at the heart strings more than a child crying during a home visit.
"You're trying to do your job and do the right thing, and in their eyes you're taking mom or dad, or maybe you're doing CPR on a family member," Powers said.
"When they have to serve a warrant and take somebody out of the household, and kids are present, that's not always an easy thing to do," added Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden.
Patrol officers will keep the bags in their vehicles; they'll also be on hand at the police department buildings.
Patrolman Ricardo Cruz with the Middletown Police Department said the bags will come in handy for the kids of families who come to the station and have to go through a lengthy process to obtain a temporary restraining order.
"Unfortunately, there's not much really for us to do with the kids while they're at the police station and their parents are going through this process," Cruz said. "One of these bags is perfect."
The unmarked bags will be distributed to departments within the next week or so.
The bags and contents are funded through a federal grant for crime victims.