NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — Police officers in Niagara County are getting to know the children in the communities they serve through the Building Bridges program. This is the second year Niagara County has held the program.
The goal of the program is to connect officers and kids in a social setting to allow them to get to know each other on a personal level.
The first session started Monday and there are activities Wednesday and Friday also. Wednesday’s outing was ice skating at Niagara University. On Friday, they’ll go to the aquarium and get ice cream.
Niagara County legislator Owen Steed helped create the program after last year’s protests.
“We decided to have our law enforcement reach out to kids at an early age and they can learn about law enforcement, law enforcement can learn about them,” said Steed.
Lieutenant Daniel Zimmerman got the sheriff’s office involved as well as the Niagara Falls Police Department.
“Children can see us as something other than a faceless law enforcement agency that only comes when they need help or only responds to trouble in their neighborhood. They can see us in a different light and see we’re everyday people too,” said Zimmerman.
Legend Lewis is one of 20 children who ice-skated at Niagara University with police officers on Wednesday.
“I like interacting with the police officers it makes me less scared of them,” Lewis said. “Before I was kind of scared of them I thought they would hurt me or something. Now that I’m friends with them I can see not all of them are bad.”
There’s another session in August which includes a trip on the Maid of the Mist and a law enforcement showcase day.
“We are genuinely building relationships,” said Zimmerman. “In a social setting we can build those relationships with understanding and trust.”