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Build trust, not fear
Parents frequently hinder law enforcement efforts by accident
Lt. Jose Ramirez of the Rincon Police Department converses with a young mother and her child during a Sept. 27 visit at police headquarters. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
Deputy Ramsey Mannon of the Effingham County Sheriff's Office addresses Thursday's Exchange Club meeting at Renasant Bank in Springfield. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

RINCON — Well-meaning attempts to teach children a healthy respect for the law frequently have ill effects.

Lt. Jose Ramirez of the Rincon Police Department encounters such efforts often. He thwarted a potential problem during a Sept. 27 encounter with a young mother at police headquarters.

“My daughter has been lying and saying she is buckled (in the car) when she is not,” the worried woman said. “... I’m like, ‘The cops are going to pull you over and take Mommy to jail.’ Is there a way that we can orchestrate something like that (to get her attention)?”

Ramirez politely rejected the request.

“Please, please, please, please, please don’t make comments like that,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said police officers are interested in building a sense of trust, not dread or anxiety.

“I’m not knocking you because it happens a lot,” Ramirez said before requesting a chance to talk to the girl. “When we sit down in restaurants and order our food, and see a mother having a problem with a child, we hear them say, ‘If you don’t behave, I’m going to get that cop to take you.’

“What that does is instill fear in the child and if that child goes missing, and they see us, they won’t come to us. They will go the opposite way, fearing that they are going to be spotted.”

Deputy Ramsey Mannon of the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office has experienced similar scenarios while in uniform.

“I recently had a lady in front of me checking out (at a grocery store) and she had a little daughter with her about three years old,” Mannon said. “She made the comment, ‘You see him. If you’re not good, he is going to take you away.’

“I just felt the blood going up. I said, Mama, I wish you wouldn’t do that because we love kids. I have kids of my own.

“If kids get lost or somebody takes them, who is going to help them? They won’t come to us because they will be scared to death. It makes us ‘the boogeyman.’ ”

See the Oct. 10 edition of the Effingham Herald for the rest of the story.