HILLSBOROUGH: Local youths show their support for the Hillsborough Police Department

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To show their appreciation

By Andrew Martins, Managing Editor
A group of four and five year-olds turned the tables on some members of the Hillsborough Township Police Department last Friday when they hosted an impromptu presentation of gratitude to the township’s men and women in blue.
Lt. Michael Fitzpatrick and Officers Phil Wolff and Chris Weckenman were at The Learning Experience on Auten Road to share their daily lives as police officers for the children. The plan, according to Lt. Fitzpatrick, was to give the kids a tour of a police cruiser, demonstrate some of the equipment and have a discussion about what the police do to keep the community safe.
“We usually touch base with every preschool at least once or twice a year, where you kind of just get to meet the kids and the kids can get used to us,” Lt. Fitzpatrick said. “If the kids see us outside of that situation, it’s usually during a time of need or emergency situation, so we try to break down barriers – especially with the little ones.”
However, when the tots showed up wearing police hats and badges made of construction paper and presented care packages, read poems and delivered letters of support for the department, Lt. Fitzpatrick said he and his colleagues knew they were in for something special.
“The hair on our arms stood up when those kids read those poems to us,” he said. “Knowing that these people support you¼it’s just amazing. It was a great day to be a cop.”
According to Rosemary O’Connell, the preschool’s director, the kids’ presentation stemmed from a visit by the local Fire Company the day prior. After asking the children whom they would like to meet next, she said there was an almost unanimous call to meet some of the township’s police officers.
Given the recent rise in public distrust of police following a string of civilian deaths in police-involved shootings, as well as the shooting deaths of police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas, Ms. O’Connell said everyone agreed that a show of solidarity for the local police department would be appreciated.
“We thought it would be great if we gave a little presentation to the officers to let them know we do appreciate them and what they do,” she said.
Ultimately, educators at the preschool hoped that their act of kindness toward the police department would give the children a sense of “how they can express empathy and gratitude and apply those feelings in a positive action” in life, Ms. O’Connell said.
“We are very proud of our people’s passion to serve and give back to the communities in which they work and live,” Andrew Alfano, chief operating officer of The Learning Experience, said. “It is evidenced every day that these are the same beliefs our first responders embody, and we could not be more thankful.”
At the end of the day, the kids were still given an up close look at the lives of police that deal more with just catching criminals.
And while the cake “did not last long” at Hillsborough Police headquarters, Lt. Fitzpatrick said the kids’ gesture meant more than they could possibly know to everyone at the department.
“This is a thankless job – which you know going into it – so when you are recognized and thanked for what you do on a daily basis, it’s just that much more special,” he said. “The kids’ signs and posters are all hanging up and it was greatly appreciated, to say the least.” 