- Associated Press - Saturday, February 11, 2017

RICHLANDS, N.C. (AP) - They don’t call him the “Chief of Second Chances” for nothing.

Since 2006, Richlands Police Department Chief Ron Lindig offering children and adolescents pen and paper instead of a record.

From 6-year-olds to high school seniors, Lindig has a notebook full of typed-up and handwritten essays from locals who committed small crimes in lieu of taking them to jail. Lindig has them write about why what they did was wrong; and most of the time, he doles out 10-to-20 hours of community service.

A trespassing high school senior was the first, the essay titled, “Why you should not go around a locked gate.” The most recent essay is dated Jan. 12.

The book is well-thumbed through.

“Every now and then I’ll go back and look over them and reminisce,” he said.

Lindig remembers each and every case; and as he talks about them, he expertly flips through to the essay that fits each story, some of the children so young their handwritten notes turn “steal” into “steel.”

Lindig said all of the offenses were minor. A couple of teens hopped a park fence before it opened to play tennis. Some stole, others trespassed and at least one ran a stop sign.

A 6-year-old was being disrespectful to his parents and Lindig handed the child Pledge to clean the police station’s furniture. He wrote “I will not be disrespectful” over and over on a sheet of paper.

Why these kinds of punishments?

“People gave me chances along the way,” Lindig said.

It’s paying it forward, he continued, saying he wouldn’t be where he is today without others believing in him; and the children and teens in his binder, he said patting it, are the ones we’re counting on for tomorrow.

In every case, Lindig said he asked parents if they spanked their children for wrongdoing; and almost always found the parents did not discipline that way, some of them fearing it would be considered abuse.

In some cases the essay-writers came from broken homes. Others wanted attention or are upset after a Marine Corps parent deploys. A small percentage are just mean.

“There’s a root to every problem,” he said.

But Lindig said kids need to fear the consequences of their actions, and he hopes the essays do that.

One fourth grader made his essay into a daily journal and chronicled a few sentences of his day-to-day life for the chief of police. Below each day, he wrote how it felt to listen to and respect his parents, including allowing him to have more fun when his chores were finished on time.

One day, he wrote, “Listening and respecting my parents has made me (feel) awesome!”

A third grader wrote about the importance of not breaking other people’s property, writing “When you break something it gets you in jail and big trouble.”

A trespassing sixth grader wrote, “The fact that I could be so stupid to where I’d think it is ok to trespass on another person’s property is beyond me. Although I did trespass I think it is very wrong to do so thank you.”

Lindig said there are about 10-to-15 new essays each year and they come more often in the summertime when school’s out.

After their punishment is finished, Lindig often takes the writers out for ice cream as a way to show that good things happen to good kids, sometimes also taking them for ride-alongs in the patrol cars.

About 90 percent of the people in his book have turned into fine, upstanding citizens, he said. There are some who didn’t change, but overwhelmingly he’s seen positive reactions.

“That second chance helped them,” Lindig said.

He hopes they look back and remember him.

“If this is what I leave my mark on,” he said, “that’ll be just fine.”


Information from: The Daily News, https://www.jdnews.com

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