Nassau County Police Officer Michael Leone with K-9 Turo speaks with...

Nassau County Police Officer Michael Leone with K-9 Turo speaks with Freeport fourth-graders at the conclusion of the annual Adopt-a-Cop program on Wednesday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

About 500 fourth-graders shrieked with glee Wednesday as a Nassau County police chopper landed in the parking lot of the Freeport Recreation Center, where the students met with village police officers to celebrate the conclusion of the annual Adopt-a-Cop program.

The program, in its 26th year, is aimed at building the students' trust with law enforcement in a friendly way. Students from the district's four elementary schools were paired with about 40 village police officers who have visited their classrooms monthly since October. 

The program culminated Wednesday with a field day, where students interacted with patrol officers, including horse mounted officers, and K-9 Units. Students tested out lights and sirens on police cars, motorcycles, military Humvees, and pet police dogs and horses.

"Many of our off-duty officers meet with classes and become friends and develop those relationships," Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy told Newsday. "Children are not afraid to ask questions about going to police."

For many students, the field trip was their first chance to venture outside the classroom since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Police brought Adopt-a-Cop program activities to the schools last year. The program was virtual in 2020. 

"I love it and haven't had a field trip in years," said Savannah Pichardo, 9, a fourth-grader at Bayview Avenue Elementary. "The cops I picked were great and it was really nice to see everyone gathered together and having fun."

The students sign adoption papers when they first meet with police officers and they exchange letters and meet regularly.

There are nine out of the 103 officers on the Freeport Police force who attended Freeport elementary schools and participated in the Adopt-a-Cop program.

Sgt. Boris Herrera, 30, who attended New Visions Elementary School, said he remembers connecting with police officers when he was a student and that inspired him to join the force.

"It made an impression on me and led me on the path to law enforcement today," Herrera said. "It just sparked something inside of me that I can't explain."

Herrera said he saw officers help people and he wanted to emulate them. He said the village's relatively small department arrives first on the scene to render aid before paramedics. 

He said he wanted to pass the program onto students to help them connect with the community and show the side of police officers beyond the badge.

"It makes you realize that police officers are not robots who write tickets. We're human beings with a sense of humor, and, yes, we like doughnuts," Herrera said. "They look up to you at that age and want to stay in touch as they grow up. It breaks the ice and maybe they won't be too hesitant to talk to us."

The school district also pairs students with the Freeport Fire Department to connect with firefighters and has expanded the program with police and fire, said Cindy Misrock, a Bayview social worker who started the program.

"It's a great way to learn about values and mentorship," Misrock said. "Our Freeport police are part of our family and it's great to see how invested the village is and cares about our students."

Freeport's Adopt-a-Cop program

  • In its 26th year 
  • There are 40 off-duty volunteer officers
  • About 500 fourth-grade students from four Freeport elementary schools participated this year.

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