It doesn’t take much to get people outside these days – especially youngsters – but the arrival of two police cruisers in a corner of The Farm got the attention of almost everyone on the street.
According to Samantha Curran, a group of young people, ranging in age from about 3 years old, she said, to at least 15, were playing in their cul de sac when a neighbor began giving some of the kids a hard time.
“My son was part of this little group that was playing there. The Farm only has certain areas where there are sidewalks, and I’m not comfortable enough at his age to allow my son to ride his bike to the playground that is on the other side of this community,” said Curran. “Because there’s not a whole lot of area to play, the kids tend to congregate in the cul de sac or grass. These kids aren’t bad kids; they’re not hitting cars or destroying things. They weren’t even anywhere near her car or her yard.”
While this wasn’t the first time some of the residents have said something to the youngsters about where they were playing, Curran said this encounter – which took place May 10 – was a little different.
“She was starting to record them on her phone, but my son’s friend’s mom was concerned about ‘Why is this lady videotaping my son and his friend?’ so she was the one who actually called the police,” Curran said.
When the first officer from the Bluffton Police Department responded, he met with the neighbor who was talking to the children and told her they were making a courtesy call for the mother.
“A lot of people came out when two police cruisers who up, because our neighborhood is quiet, but there was no altercation, no yelling,” she said. “After the officers finished with the neighbor, they talked to the mother who called. After that was when they started hanging out with the kids.”
One of the officers was Sgt. Jason Rodriguez.
“There was this super nice officer. He started talking to the children, and that was when I came out, and I was overhearing them talking. I was shocked,” she said. “He wasn’t reprimanding them or telling them not to play. He was asking them where they went to school, and would they like to see his K-9 Hunden.”
Curran said the children were excited to see the dog, and Sgt. Rodriguez began to tell them all about Hunden, his job, and how the dogs are trained.
Rodriguez then went a step further, Curran said, and opened the doors to his cruiser for the kids to look inside.
“He let them look at everything: where they put the criminals, all about the equipment, talked about what police life is like. He showed them the training equipment for the dog,” said Curran. “Then he asked the kids if they had any questions for him. They asked if he had to handle criminals who had murdered people, and what he had seen. He didn’t sugar-coat the answers, but he didn’t give any of the scary stuff. He talked about how they respond to help people.”
Rodriguez then handed out cards that had a photo of him with Hunden and included facts about the dog, said Curran. He stayed about 40 minutes, she said.
“He was basically building up a relationship with the kids,” she said. “It was nice for us as parents to see – with all the negative stuff the past year about police officers – to see an officer trying to build a relationship with the people that way. It was such a diverse bunch of kids, very much like the Bluffton Police Department is.”
Curran said the children and parents couldn’t stop talking about the visit. “I thought it was awesome,” she said. “My son was still talking about it Tuesday morning.”
Curran said she is known to be critical about some of the tragedies and incidents involving law enforcement, especially given the past year, but this was an impressive display of police and community involvement.
“I know it’s a tough job, but I think it’s important to give credit where it’s due. It was a whole mix of kids that were all benefitting from learning from this officer and I thought this was a really cool depiction of what the Bluffton police force is like,” said Curran. “It’s very diverse, and all around it looked and felt very good, and promising, and very positive.”
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.