SWEET RIDE

SWEET RIDE — Lily Farrer and Oscar Cibrian rode in the back seat of the police car on their ride to lunch and were fascinated by the difference between the back of a police car and the back of a regular car.

Program picks kids from Cloverdale schools to get McDonald's with officers 

The Cloverdale Police Department is partnering with the school district to help get kids comfortable with being around cops. The newly adopted Lunch with a Cop program takes two students from both Jefferson Elementary School and Washington Middle School and lets them spend a lunch break at McDonald’s with members of the Cloverdale Police Department. 

The first Lunch with a Cop took place in mid-November and gave two fourth graders, Lily Farrer and Oscar Cibrian, the opportunity to have their questions about cops answered while chowing down on a Happy Meal.

“It’s community engagement,” Officer Carlos Nunez said. “We want to be part of this community. We want to work in conjunction with the schools. We want to have an open door to where if there are any problems, they can communicate with us. We want to be a positive presence.”

Nunez has served as the liaison between the police department and the middle and elementary schools to help get the program up and running. He also joined Chief Jason Ferguson for the first lunch. 

Nunez said that each school site chooses its own pair of kids to participate in the lunch and from there (once permission slips are signed and parental OK is given), they set up a day that works best for both parties. 

“We pick them up, we let them check out the cars, sit in the driver’s seat, passenger seat, ask us a gazillion questions. We take them to McDonald’s. They order whatever they want. We sit down and have an ordinary lunch,” he said.

Farrer and Cibrian, both 9 years old, said that the best part of the lunch was getting to ride in the police car.

“I was curious about the car,” Farrer said. “I had never been in a cop car before. It was fun — there were like plastic hard seats and the front seats were like normal car seats.”

Cibrian said that he was confused when they rolled down the bars across. Farrer noted that the bars resembled the doors of a prison cell. 

Jefferson Principal Susan Yakich said that the school chose two students, one girl and one boy, at random to join the cops. During Jefferson’s next round of Lunch with a Cop, they’ll choose third graders to participate.

“At first they (the students) were on the quiet side, but once they got to meet myself and Chief Ferguson, they got to see that this was all fun and games and they really opened up and there was a flood gate of questions,” Nunez said. “Anything you can think of, there was no question left unasked.”

While the Lunch with a Cop program has only recently started, Nunez said that the department has partnered with McDonald’s in the past for something similar. While they’ve tried to bring a program like this back multiple times, it never took off due to staffing constraints. With the department “getting back up to normalcy,” he’s hoping the Lunch with a Cop program will stick. 

Though Nunez and Ferguson were the police chaperones for this lunch, the department is hoping to have different officers partake in the meetings. This, Nunez said, will help students and school staff get to know members of the department who may work odd hours or the night shift.

“We don’t want them to be afraid of us,” he said. “We want them to know that we’re here for their well-being, their safety. We’re here for them.”

It’s the camaraderie and community component of meeting with students that Nunez said is the focus of the Lunch with a Cop program — those things are also what he enjoyed most about meeting with Farrer and Cibrian last month.

“The best part about it for me is probably the enjoyment that we get out of it,” he said. “The biggest thing to it for me was the communication and relationship building. At the end of it they weren’t calling me ‘Officer’ or anything. They were calling me ‘Officer’ or anything. They were calling me Carlos.” 

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