When I was a kid, I distinctly remember the brisk evening when my Cub Scout Den visited the local Hardin County Jail in Elizabethtown, KY. Some images as a child you simply can’t forget. So as you might imagine, it was more than deja vu when my youngest son’s Tiger Scout Den Leader announced our trip to the Naperville Police Department.
Under the brisk darkening skies of this January afternoon, I headed out with my partially scout uniform compliant six year-old, driving past the lingering twinkle of holiday lights defying the distancing days which are striving to sever the magic of the holiday season from our plummet into the dark dull days of Winter.
We drove up to the Naperville Police Department and I covertly studied my son’s face in the rear-view mirror, wondering what was going through his budding mind as we inched closer to a place which can only serve as a stark contrast to the innocent colorful confines of Safety Town just across the street.
My son was uncharacteristically quiet, clinging to my larger hand a little tighter than usual as we walked into the empty lobby. We were greeted by two officers sitting behind a somewhat menacing looking cold metal reception desk. Though, with a smile they took one look at his signature safety-orange colored Tiger Scout standard-issue scarf and directed us into the Community Room where the rest of his pint-size nature-loving citizens in training waited.
It was astonishing how uncharacteristically quiet and compliant our small pack of otherwise unbridled energy junkies were as we waited. We were led through the Department by a non-uniformed community service policing representative and it immediately became clear we had an all-access pass.
The boys walked ahead of the parents throughout the premises in the straightest single file line I’ve ever seen achieved by a group of six year-old boys. We saw the briefing room, the 911 center, the large police vehicles, the small police vehicles. However, nothing could possibly top our journey into the heart of the cell block where the arrested spend a bit of reflection time. Fortunately, there was nobody being held which meant we could go inside and let the boys spend a little bit of timing sitting inside one of the jail cells. A cold metal bed and even colder looking metal toilet was all the interior decoration to be viewed against the stark cement block walls. To make the proper translation, we pointed out the fact there was no Wii or Xbox inside the cell.
I think it was all a real eye-opener for our Tiger Scouts. Even more, it was a reinforced affirmation to me of what a top-notch, well-equipped police department and force we have here in Naperville. A couple of years ago, I did a program at the Naperville Police Department as part of the Naperville Citizen’s Academy, and it appears our law enforcement continues to improve.
As for my son, half way home in the car he revealed to me why he had been so quiet. He slowly confessed, “I was a little bit scared for two reasons. First, I was afraid the police officers were going to arrest me. Second… uh… I can’t remember the second…” But, by the end of the tour and by the time we got home, his brave excitement and new stories were shared freely with his older brother and Grandfather. He has vowed to never take anything from his brother’s room without asking again. I think we might be able to squeeze at least a few days out of such a six year-old pledge.
So many thanks to the Naperville Police Department for everything you do, not only in keeping our community safe but most importantly serving as a positive presence in our children’s lives.