Until recently, this is what little kids in Northampton, Massachusetts saw when they came to elementary school on Fridays: an officer who wanted to give them a high five.
— Northampton Police (@NorthamptonPD) December 2, 2016
The Northhampton Police Department started the program in early December with the blessing of local school officials, sending out cops once a week to high-five students. That’s over.
“While we received a lot of support on social media, we also heard a few concerns about the program,” the department announced on Saturday. They said Chief Jody Kasper got invited to a school committee meeting to address potential problems. Someone brought up the possibility that some kids would be uncomfortable seeing police at the beginning of a school day, while other people questioned the long-term efficacy. This conversation led to the program getting temporarily paused. A follow up meeting with over a dozen members of the public resulted in the program getting axed for good.
“Concerns were shared that some kids might respond negatively to a group of uniformed officers at their school,” the NPD said. “People were specifically concerned about kids of color, undocumented children, or any children who may have had negative experiences with the police.”
Now they’re thinking of alternative programs, though they still invite high fives, low fives, and fist bumps. We’ve reached out for further comment.
The decision comes in the midst of an ongoing national debate about cops and the communities they serve. There has been consistent criticism that officers are less likely to provide black and brown people due process. This has led to protests of alleged police brutality in cities like Ferguson, Missouri (the death of Michael Brown); Waller County, Texas (Sandra Bland); and New York City (Eric Garner). Tensions bubbled up in Dallas, Texas, when a gunman murdered five officers during a Black Lives Matter protest in July.
Northampton is a small, predominantly white town. The 2010 census had their numbers at 28,549. 87.7 of people were white. Asians were the largest racial minority, though a community survey later break that down to a mix of Vietnamese, Koreans, Asian Indians, and people from other backgrounds. Meanwhile, 6.8 percent of residents were Hispanic, ethnically speaking. The majority of them were Puerto Rican and probably U.S. citizens. 2.7 percent of residents are black, while 0.3 were either American Indian or Alaska Native.
[Image of officer via the Northampton Police Department]