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Study: Children's first impressions of law enforcement follow them into adulthood

Posted: 4:16 AM, May 02, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-02 06:19:19-04
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — A new study finds that school resource officers and their interactions with students affect how children see law enforcement when they become adults.

"What better form of community policing could we have that children at a young age develop positive, healthy relationships with law enforcement officers. As opposed to their first experience being on the street and potentially a negative experience," said Superintendent Rocky Hanna of Leon County Schools.

Showing children as early on as possible that law enforcement is trustworthy and helpful.

And a new study from Florida State University shows the teenage years are the building blocks for how children and teens view the criminal justice system later in life.

"One thing that was interesting that we found in the study was that seems to be more important when you're younger. So an interaction you have earlier on plays a more impactful role than an interaction that you have later," said Dr. Kyle McLean, FSU Crimnology Professor.

The study followed close to 1,500 early teenagers for seven years.

Researchers found, the two biggest influences are positive early interactions and how their parents view law enforcement.

Dr McLean says school resource officers and deputies are one of the best ways to start building those relationships. And the superintendent of Leon county schools wants to start strengthening those bonds with children as early as elementary aged.

"I've gone to the chief of police to try to encourage the city of Tallahassee to partner with Leon County schools to provide officers in all of our elementary schools. Right now we're using off duty officers and deputy sheriffs," said Hanna.

"Our schools resource deputies are invaluable with helping us build those relationship because they see them everyday. They get to know the kids, the good times, the bad times and everything in between," said Deputy Dave Teems with the Leon County Sheriff's Office.

Superintendent Hanna says he's already talking with city leaders about how they can expand their resource officers program especially in Leon County elementary schools.