ATLANTA -- Even for many adults, the spectacle of police doing their job, especially if they have to use force, can be frightening. But for a child, without the benefit of context and a grown-up understanding of what's going on, the images can shape their perceptions of the police for life.
And that's what brought more than a dozen youngsters to Zoo Atlanta the other day.
The kids were on a safari of sorts, not just to check out the animals and exhibits, but to discover something else: That the police really are human.
"They enjoy it; they enjoy it," said APD Sgt. A. Carter. "They've had a lot of opportunity to be around police now. They know that police officers are not just robots -- that they're human beings as well."
The outing is part of a summer camp put on by APD and Atlanta Public Schools to cut down on truancy.
"And we've come together for a summer camp to give them some enrichment courses and also have a lot of field trips so they can partner with some of the truancy officers as well," said Sgt. Carter.
Every day, the camp has taken the kids to different locations across the metro to expose them to sights and sounds they might not normally get to experience. On this day, it's the zoo.
"It's nice," said Daquan Dinkins, one of the kids participating in the camp. "It helps you build more relationships, helps you make more friends and starts letting you do different things than you have done before."
Dinkins is one of the many kids who say the program works. "I also learned that making friends is pretty easy once you get into one big group. They learn about nature. They start loving it, caring about it, appreciating it," he said/
Dinkins added that once he got to know the officers, he discovered that the police were actually "pretty nice."