The Importance of Story Time

This week’s “Thankful Thursday” would like to highlight the innovative way police departments are utilizing to build community trust during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since many families had to adjust to stay at home orders, they had to figure ways to manage school and work remotely. Officers from the New Britain Police Department in Connecticut started reading children’s stories on Facebook Live. Their effort inspired officers from the Hamden Police Department to develop their own take on connecting with families in their community. 

A video of Hamden Police Department officer Jeremy Brewer reading bedtime stories for the kids went viral. Many of the families found solace in the department’s nightly storytelling initiative called “Hamden PD Storytime” on Facebook Live. More than 8,000 viewers have tuned in nightly to listen to Officers Brewer and Angela Vey. Guest speakers doubling as translators have also joined the livestream on Facebook. 

“It stemmed from that American spirit of ‘How can I help? How can I get more involved with my community? Every day since March 18 at 7:30 p.m., I’ve been reading stories in my 7-year-old daughter’s purple bedroom with crazy stuffed animals. Even since I contracted COVID-19, I’ve been reading out loud on Facebook Live,” said Officer Brewer. 

As the readings began to gain traction, Officers Vey and Brewer sought other ways to cater to a diverse audience. “We didn’t want to run with some old-school books. We want to be more inclusive to best represent our diverse community, so our stories focus on empathy, sharing and connecting during these times,” said Officer Brewer. In partnership with the local community library, the officers were provided with plenty of books for their nightly readings.

After receiving overwhelmingly positive responses from Hamden community members, Officer Brewer says that other departments can seize the opportunity to redefine law enforcement’s public image for the better.

“We’ve gotten a lot of reactions saying, ‘Wow, really glad police are doing this,’ I really saw an opportunity for police to tell their own stories, because otherwise others will tell it for you. You have to own the good and the bad – officers need to know that you’re only as good as your last interaction. Too often, the officers are interacting with citizens during moments of crisis, and those encounters can be defining moments of public perception – for better or worse. If you call the police and I show up being dismissive and rude, then that will be the strongest impression you have of our work. No amount of basketball games and stories read can change that. We like to say that we interact with 10% of the community 90% of the time – the vast majority of people have almost no dealings with police, and we have to take those moments to shine, even if it means giving people directions in a friendly manner. Don’t be afraid to be creative, and definitely don’t get complacent. You need to continue working on fostering relationships with your communities. You’re an opportunity away from changing people’s perceptions about you and your department,” said Officer Brewer.