Fifth-graders at Public School 112 in Brooklyn, New York, were handed mock police badges Tuesday morning instead of name tags or gold stars. Rather than rattling off the Pledge of Allegiance, they followed New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton in reciting a pledge to "study hard, to work hard, to obey my parents, to work with my teachers and to always try to do good."
They also took on the title of "junior New York City police officers for the day."
NYPD officers visited 340 elementary schools across the city to participate in team-building exercises with children. The visits were part of Team Up Tuesday, a new initiative to encourage positive relationships between children and local law enforcement.
Dozens of police officers greeted students at P.S. 112 on Tuesday morning, as did Bratton and New York City Education Commissioner Carmen Fariña. The two leaders spent time reading stories to groups of kids, and other students participated in outdoor activities led by uniformed police officers.
Bratton told students that teachers and local police officers "need to work together to keep you safe so you can come to school and learn in a safe environment."
"We need you working together with us, to keep the city safe, to keep your schools safe, to keep your neighborhood safe," he added.
Bratton told reporters at P.S. 112 that local police officers often visited his school when he was a child, and that it helped inspire him to go into law enforcement.
Although there aren't specific plans for future Team Up Tuesdays, Fariña said she expects to see more activities designed to foster strong relationships between students and law enforcement in the city.
The public's confidence in police officers has declined following a number of high-profile deaths of black men at the hands of officers. New York City cops have been embroiled in some of these controversies. Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, died in July 2014 after an NYPD officer put him in a chokehold. A grand jury's decision a few month later to not indict the officer sparked protests across the nation.
Team Up Tuesday was meant to be a step toward fostering more trust in law enforcement.
“Building meaningful community relationships from an early age is critical to ensure that New Yorkers across the city are aware of the many supports available to them,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in April, per The New York Daily News.