By: Melina Matthes
OMAHA (kptm) - Often times an Omaha police officer is the first to arrive at a shooting, accident, or disturbance.
Any of those can be traumatizing for a child, especially if their parent is getting arrested. But the Omaha police department is working to comfort those kids.
The Omaha police department says when cruisers arrive at a home; the children are most often scared. With the help of a few cuddly creatures those kids can be reminded that everything is going to be okay.
"The children are the real victims in all of that and really suffer and to be able to just make them a little happier just for a short period of time is really a bonus for our officers," Crime Prevention Specialist, Bridget Fitzpatrick said.
With the help of a few stuffed animals, she says an officer can make a stressful situation a little easier. "My hope for instance is if this little girl gets a monkey with a little dress on that it will become her most favorite animal in her collection because she knows under the circumstances that it was given to her, it has a lot of meaning, it helps her feel better period and so hopefully it will become an important little bear for her."
And officers say having these animals on hand, putts them at ease as well. "Most of us have our own kids and we try to think what would we want our kids, how would we want our kids to be handled in a situation like that, we keep that in mind and try to calm the situation down," Officer Chris Sanchez said.
The stuffed animals are kept inside the police cruisers and officers are allowed to give them out anytime they feel necessary, but sometimes a situation arises when a bear is essential.
"Today it just suited a different purpose, it was an emergency situation and it was an emergency stuffed animal," Officer Sanchez said.
He said he used a stuffed bunny rabbit to try and save a man's life. He was the first to arrive at a shooting. When he arrived, he saw a man crawling out of his car covered in blood. "Not knowing how far away the rescue squads were, I knew that we'd need to render some sort of aid at the scene so the only thing I had available to me to apply pressure to the wounds was a stuffed animal."
So whether it's a frog, monkey, or teddy bear, plush critters can be a life saving tool.
Mental health advocates say giving out stuffed animals can have a calming effect on children.
A spokesperson with Lutheran Family Services says often times a child will shut down after a traumatizing situation. They say giving them a toy or stuffed animal can begin the healing process, enabling them to open up and express their feelings.
The police department says you can be a part of their goal, by naming one of the stuffed animals. They plan to make it a mascot for the northwest precinct. They say it's just another way to show kids they care.
You can take part online through the Omaha police department's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/OmahaPoliceDepartment?fref=ts
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