GREENWOOD, S.C. (AP) - Tears were streaming down two children’s faces as their mother ran up to Mickey Boland’s patrol car.
Now Boland, a lieutenant, is assistant administrator of the Greenwood County Detention Center, but when he worked in uniform patrol and the frantic mother and her two, crying children ran up to his car, he knew something was wrong.
“She came pulling up to my patrol car at about two in the morning,” he said. “She was running from her spouse.”
The domestic violence situation had left the children shaken, but when Boland turned around and pulled out a teddy bear and a plush lion to give to them, the tears stopped flowing. He said that small act of kindness can be enough to give a child comfort in dark moments.
“It brings them back down to being a child,” he said.
Many officers in the Greenwood Police Department and Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office carry in their vehicles a stuffed animal, coloring book or toy to give to any child they might meet while on patrol. Since Boland started his law enforcement career 25 years ago, he said he’s always kept something in his car. It’s a habit he picked up while in training at the Ware Shoals Police Department.
“Chief Welch, who was a lieutenant at the time, turned me on to it,” he said.
At first, Boland joked with Welch, asking him if he needed the teddy bear to comfort himself while on the job. Soon enough, he understood the importance of having one handy.
“When you face a child, you’re in uniform and they’re in a distressing moment,” he said. “They’re already scared, and it makes them look at you in a different light - I think all officers should carry one in their vehicle.”
City police Lt. Daniel Rushton had a plush owl in his trunk Thursday, and added two dogs and coloring books to his collection.
“We realize the perception people may have that we’re there to make an arrest or something,” he said, “but there’s more to it than that.”
Putting a child at ease can help de-escalate a situation and give the child something pleasant to think about during an otherwise unpleasant situation, he said. In some cases, it’s a memory that will stick with them for some time. Years after offering a teddy bear to a girl after her pet was hit by a car, Boland said he received a hand-written letter from her.
“She said she would always cherish it,” he said, “because it brought a good memory in a bad time.”
Information from: The Index-Journal, https://www.indexjournal.com
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