DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The consent decree between the U.S. Department of Justice and city of Cleveland spells out line-by-line the sweeping changes in policing. Years worth.
But the decree is just words on paper without action -- action that in some ways began literally with baby steps. Police have begun reaching out to young children by reading to them at the Stokes Head Start Center in Cleveland.
Commander Dennis Hill has reached out to kids at four and five years old, an impressionable age. The idea is to give them a good impression of police through a book such as "If You Take a Mouse to School."
As Hill read, the kids sat silently and listened intently.
When he asked if anyone had any questions it was clear some of the kids already had an idea of one side of police work.
"Do you put him in jail? Do you put everybody in jail?" a young boy asked.
"Only if they break the law," Hill said. "We don't put everybody in jail."
And that is the idea, to break down preconceptions even in the very young, according to Head Start President Dr. Thea Wilson.
"We want to send a message to the children that our police are a part of our community and we have to support them as well," Wilson said.
Hill added police can be a positive influence in the children's lives.
"And they can come to see us when they need us so there is understanding and trust," Hill said.
He promised to come back amid applause from the kids. So the seeds are being planted, child by child with the goal of a decade or so down the road of bearing fruit.
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