Verona police hope to build relationships with kids

Verona youth event

When: Saturday

Time: noon-2 p.m.

Where: Verona City Park

By Danza Johnson
Daily Journal

VERONA – Police officers will round up kids at the Verona City Park on Saturday, but only for fun.

Police Chief Chris Barnett is hosting the town's first Cops and Kids celebration this weekend. The rookie chief said he hopes the program will help him reach young people before they are sitting in the back of his squad car, officially.

“I want our officers to get out there and meet the kids and build good relationships with them while they are young,” he noted. “We're going to talk to them about gangs, drugs, domestic violence and curfew. We want them to know that all of these things cause negative consequences that can send their lives in the wrong direction.”

Youths participating in program will compete in several events against officers. The “Catch me if you can” competition will put officers in a foot race with the young people. Officers also will showcase their skills in a one-on-one basketball game.

Even though the celebration is aimed at youngsters, Barnett said he encourages parents to come out and watch.

“We all have to take care of our community's kids,” said Barnett. “Parents need to come out and see that police aren't out to lock their kids up, but to help them.”

Verona Mayor Bobby Williams said he hopes the program will change kids' opinions of police officers.

“We have a good group of officers and we want our community to be aware of that,” said Williams. “Kids need to know that these guys are their friends and are there to help them. Who knows, some of these kids may become the future officers of Verona.”