On July 16th, I kicked off a series of emails with the Fremont Police Department’s Community Engagement when I attempted to help my preschool get the kids a few child safety presentations from Fremont Police Department and Fremont Fire Department. I was surprised by how difficult this exercise turned out to be. I have still yet to obtain any results yet but I will not be giving up yet. At the very least I hope to understand why it is not possible.
Here are the emails that went back and forth:
July 16, 2013:
I was wondering if the Fremont Police Department might be able to find time and visit some preschoolers and do a small presentation? My son attends Empire Montessori Preschool and I am looking to arrange for a school visit — I know this would make so many kids there very happy! I know that the school director would love this for the kids.
Please contact me and let me know how we might arrange this.
We only do school visits for elementary school age children. We just don’t have the staffing resources to accommodate all of the preschools in town.
I am not asking for you to visit all the preschools in Fremont. I am only requesting it on behalf of the preschool that my kids go to. I thought that it is important to teach children at a young age what policemen do and to respect them. It is a shame that there isn’t any room for even a 20 minute presentation?
Who may I speak with about this? Who can I write to to lobby for this?
I am the Public Affairs Manager for the Department and the community engagement programs are in my area of responsibility. I understand that you are asking us to visit just your school, but as you can imagine a lot of people in town would like the same treatment. We have to be fair in the services we provide and as an agency we only have the capacity to handle school presentations for early elementary age children. While I agree 100% that it is very important to interact and educate children at a young age, our experience is that five years of age or kindergarten is when kids are more receptive to the presentation. If we make an exception for one preschool, then we have to do the same for all.
We apologize and appreciate your understanding.
Public Affairs Manager/PIO
Fremont Police Department
I was just informed that while I can’t offer a presentation, we can send a volunteer with a patrol vehicle. They would simply just park the car and let the kids look at and sit in the vehicle. They would turn on the lights, siren and explain the equipment.
If this sounds like something that you’d like, let me know and we can get this set up.
After that exchange, I was pretty excited — something is better than nothing! I then got the preschool director in touch with the department, but then ball was dropped from there and the school director never got any confirmation of when they can get the volunteers to come out. So a month later, on August 15th, I sent this email:
What does Fremont Police Department offer in terms of education for children younger than elementary school age? As an individual parent should I bring the kids to tour the police department to teach them about the police? Is there any videos that are provided?
Previously we lived in Castro Valley, where the police seems to be a bit more available to preschool presentations. What are the resources available to me as a resident and a concerned parent who would like to teach my children about the helpers and first responders?
I then received an out of office autoreply from Geneva’s email account directing me to email other people. I emailed the others she recommended getting in touch with an received even more out of office auto replies.
But a day later, I did get a response:
August 16, 2013
The Department doesn’t really have any education programs for children with the exception of child safety talks for kindergarten and first graders. In 2003 virtually all of our education programs, including DARE were cut when we lost more than 50 positions.
We do offer building tours to organized groups of children, preschool is usually still on the young side, but we would accommodate your request. The tour is conducted by a volunteer and is more focused on the building itself and less about child safety. Your children would likely be able to meet officers who are in the building during the tour.
My secondary recommendation would be to attend an event where we have officers present. We will have officers at this weekends Festival of India and the Niles Antique Faire later in the month.
I can look next week when I return to the office to see if we have any videos on child safety. If we do, you would be more than welcome to borrow them.
You are very lucky that Alameda County Sheriff’s Office still provides child education programs in the Castro Valley area. Fremont unfortunately is one of the lowest staffed agencies in the nation and while we are beginning to add back positions it will be some time before we are able to provide the programs we had prior to 2003.
Let me know if you’d like us to schedule a tour and I will check on the video.
To which I responded with this, and cc’d the police chief and city manager:
Dear Ms. Geneva Bosque,
It is well recognized by many experts that the first 5 years of life is most important and provide the base for the brain’s organizational development throughout life. Children need to learn who they can trust, well before the age of 5. Recently events in the news and the fact that there are many parents in this community who do not have other family members living in close proximity makes this an important lesson for young children, especially those younger than 5. It is important for young children to understand that in an emergency, when parents are not available, they can be comfortable with the role of the police officer as a community helper, and that he/she can be trusted to help them.
I understand that you are just doing your job to enforce the policy (that you had nothing to do with creating) of no presentations for children under the age of 5, but telling me now that I am a resident and home owner citizen of Fremont that I was lucky to have been in Castro Valley makes me a bit sad, since I do live here now. Even before buying a house and moving to Fremont I have been studying up on the city; since our correspondence I have even read the city’s budget for 2012-2013 as posted on Fremont.gov. While I am aware that Fremont Police has lost 52 positions in 2003, my reading of more recent news leads me to believe that more officers have been added back since and budget has been increased for 2013 for more hiring. I do understand that with 185 current full time police officers, the officer to resident ratio of 0.85 is still below average, but community services such as child safety education does not necessarily need to be performed by full time police officers.
I was quite excited to have moved into a proper city (which is ranked the #2 safest city in the country) from an unincorporated area, and I am sad to discover that Fremont Police Department does not recognize that children under age of 5 as a valuable part of the community and the importance of acquainting young children with community helpers. Yes, young children have short attention spans, which means that short presentations with show and tell props like police car and police dogs can help make things interesting. I would be happy to bring my children in to the police station on my own but for preschools it tends to be more difficult to transport a large group of children to the police station. Plus, as you mentioned the focus is more on the building, which is not as important a lesson to teach the children as actual safety and interaction with officers. It is important that young children understand that in an emergency, police officer are community helpers that can be trusted to help them.
I know that few people have the interest to speak on behalf of preschool children, but I am quite serious and passionate about teaching about community helpers in early childhood. There are few things I consider more than the safety of my young children and I believe their ability to communicate with and trust a police officer can save their lives and the lives of others. It is better to teach the kids how not to be abducted than to have to look for them after they are lost; it is better to teach kids how to call 911 and get help than to deal with the aftermath of their helplessness. I hope that a city as innovative and resourceful as Fremont will be able to come up with some creative solutions for its youngest citizens to learn that a police officer is your friend.
I don’t know what will happen from here. Perhaps we will be able to get a volunteer to finally come out, but I definitely want to understand the no presentation under age 5 policy. Hopefully I will have more updates to follow. It’s not easy to be an active and concerned citizen!
As a testament to the power of social media, when I published this post, it autoposted to my Twitter and Google+ account and within the hour I received the following email in my inbox:
I spoke to Ms. Eva yesterday who I believe is the director at your Montessori school. She let me know that our volunteers came out yesterday for the vehicle show and tell presentation, but that there had been a communication mishap, so she asked if they could leave and come back another time. We are working to see if we can get two volunteers to return next Friday and will confirm that with her once we have made the arrangements on our end.
As for continuing the conversation about education and options such as building tours, videos, etc., please call me directly at 790-6957 to discuss this further.