by Jonathan Weaver
One thing law enforcement officials are beginning to carry around with them may surprise you: teddy bears.
Local state constables use the stuffed animals through the nationwide Bears on Patrol (BOPS) program, an initiative to let children know that they are there to help.
Armstrong County Constable Barry Rosen explained why constables want to be involved.
“We don’t want them to be afraid of the uniform. We want them to be comfortable and know that they can trust the policemen or law enforcement are there for them,” Rosen said. “They aren’t there to scare them or hurt them.”
State Constable Glenn King, who is based out of Leechburg, said the organization was the first in the state to join the nationwide program when they received bears at the end of January. He said bears are given to children who are involved in domestic situations, witness a death in the family or are involved in fires to help lift their spirits.
“I work a lot with our local police departments, and not only does it get the word out, but this helps comfort the child,” King said.
King, who is also the Fraternal Order of Constables Lodge 21president, has given bears out to Kiski Township and Leechburg police department officers to help in their cases, and is hoping that more want to become involved.
“We’re more than happy to share them with any department who wants to participate,” Rosen said.
Kiski Township Police Officer Scott Ponteri said the stuffed animals are a great way to interact with children and carried them before King’s donation.
“Our department has always carried some kind of teddy bear in the vehicle for those situations,” Ponteri said. “They do come in pretty handy.”
Rosen said it is hard to know how many to take with him in his squad car per day.
“You never know how many times you are going to run into a situation,” Rosen added.
Since it is a relatively-new program, Rosen and King said they have not yet had to give out any bears to children.
Ponteri said community residents have also brought in teddy bears to give to children in troubled situations throughout the year.
Public residents are also able to help with the BOPS program by donating money or gently-used teddy bears for the state constables or police officers to give to children.
King said every little bit helps.
“Make a donation no matter what size – let’s keep this program going because it benefits the children,” King said.
Interested donors or police officers can contact King at 724-236-0295 for more information.