In an effort to build relationships between the community and the police department, to inform police recruits of the serious issue of education inequity, and to improve reading and language skills in elementary school students, recruits attending the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Academy spent an hour a week reading and writing with students in classrooms in several elementary schools in the St. Louis Public Schools while they were in the academy.
Goals and Objectives
- To enhance the image of police in the community by presenting recruits as positive, helpful role models, which affects children’s perception of law enforcement
- To develop in police recruits sensitivity to and knowledge of the communities, neighborhoods, and children they will be protecting
- To improve reading, language, and social skills of elementary school students
- To promote the enjoyment of reading, writing, and oral communication, thereby increasing confidence and self-esteem
- Build rapport between the students, the police, and the community
Furthermore, the police chief hoped that some of the students would be motivated to become police officers.
Books & Badges started in November 2002 and operated in 15 elementary schools in St. Louis Public Schools. Each school had students who were reading below grade level and a principal willing and eager to participate in the program.
How It Works
Each Academy class of 25-40 recruits is divided into two or three groups. They were trained to be reading partners and spent 45 minutes with individual students once a week. Before the first visit, the recruits were given training on how to read and write with students to help them be successful and effective reading partners.
A study by Saint Louis University in 2006 determined that Books & Badges provided a valuable service for both the schools it served and for the recruits. The principals and teachers were overwhelmingly positive about the program and the benefits it brought to their schools. Most recruits rated the program highly and saw similar benefits as the principals through the development of positive relationships with students and learning to form relationships with young people. Evaluation questionnaires given to recruits after the 2006 study continued to support Books and Badges as an effective program. Most of the recruits either agreed or strongly agreed that the students enjoyed reading and writing with them and that Books & Badges had improved police and youth relationships, given them a better understanding of young people in the community, and contributed to a better relationship between law enforcement and the schools. As one recruit stated, Books & Badges “opened my eyes to the young as well as the schools that I will be involved with in the future.”
Following a good run, Books & Badges was suspended just before COVID in February 2020.