LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -The Lawton Police Department will use stuffed animals as their secret weapon while responding to chaotic situations involving young children.
All too often, when responding to a call of domestic violence, custody exchange or when police forced to make an arrest, innocent children often become the real victims when they see mom or dad get arrested.
Police say they're often confused and scared, and in need of comfort that is easily provided through something as simple as these stuffed animals recently donated by the Oklahoma Postal Workers union.
When it comes to children, the power of a pink bunny, cuddly turtle or soft giraffe shouldn't be underestimated. They say the soft toys give children something to cling to when they feel all alone.
Lawton Police Sergeant Stephanie Crawford says responding to domestic situations involving families is one of the hardest calls officers are faced with.
"You know, we like to try to remove the child from the situation, maybe place them in the patrol car. That would be the perfect time to give them a stuffed animal," Sgt. Crawford said.
Sergeant Crawford says that can put a child at ease during an uncomfortable situation.
"A lot of times when we go on calls, if it's a domestic situation, especially if a parent has to be arrested, anything that the police are involved in scares the kids," Sgt. Crawford said.
Sergeant Crawford says before patrol officers had the stuffed animals, they had to comfort the children themselves the best they knew how.
"We will talk to them just like we would our own children and comfort them and put our arms around them and try and make them feel comforted," she explained.
Sergeant Crawford hopes the stuffed animals will help bring comfort to the children in their time of need, while also helping them realize that police are only there to help.
"When they think of the police officers now, they're not going to think of a scary situation, they're going to think of the teddy bear and think of how good it made them feel. Maybe they'll see the police officers and not be so frightened anymore," Sgt. Crawford said.
Sergeant Crawford says the Oklahoma Postal Workers union donated around 100 toys to the department. She says this isn't the first time the department has used stuffed animals. A few months ago, Beanie Babies were donated as well.
Each patrol officer now has several of these toys in their back seat or trunk for easy access.