Hanford Police Chief Parker Sever wasn’t at all surprised last week when his officers said they wanted to help replace a playset stolen from a program that serves children with disabilities.
“They do this all the time,” Sever says.
In fact, just a couple months ago, a woman called to tell Sever that after her son’s birthday presents were stolen from the back of her car, a Hanford police officer went to Big 5 Sporting Goods and bought her a $100 gift certificate so she could replace the gifts.
“He didn’t tell me about it,” Sever says. “I found out because the lady called me, wanting to thank us. We’ve had officers buying diapers for kids. We’ve had officers buy clothes for people after fires.”
So when a plastic play structure used by toddlers was found missing from the United Cerebral Palsy Parent & Me program in Hanford last Monday morning, it took officers less than a day to raise funds to replace the stolen playground equipment.
Not just one, but two, new playsets have been ordered for the Hanford center, which should be arriving sometime this week. Police plan to install the new equipment in an effort to make it thief-proof.
This is one small tale about the good cops of the world. Sever wants the community to know there are a lot of them.
“The officers take all crimes pretty personally and they work, on a daily basis, to right the wrongs that others inflict on people,” Sever says. “And we can’t do this is in every situation, but particularly when they found out (the playset) was serving kids with disabilities from the ages of 1 to 3, they thought we could probably fix this problem.”
On Friday, the officers had helped raise about $1,500. Their police union gave $500, which was matched by city attorney Robert Dowd. The rest was donated by businesses, community members and other public officials.
Jennifer Thornburg, a development coordinator with United Cerebral Palsy of Central California, says the theft has been overshadowed by the community’s generosity.
“Everyone really stopped focusing on the negative and started focusing on the positive,” she says.
Sever says the department will continue to accept donations for the Parent & Me program, which offers weekday class sessions for children up to 3 years old with a wide range of disabilities or speech challenges.
Sever recently joined a “circle time” at the Hanford center, sitting on the floor alongside toddlers and parents singing songs like “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” in a colorful room filled with toys and a pet turtle. Bee photographer John Walker was snapping shots of him with the kids for this column, but Sever assures us later the smiles were no act.
“I love kids,” he says – even though one of the little girls broke his sunglasses. “I have five kids myself.”
Most of his officers are fathers and mothers, too, he says.
“People don’t become officers because they want to exert authority over people,” Sever says. “Their primary motive in becoming officers is they want to help and serve people. And when they are given that opportunity, generally they step up without having to be asked.”
Support UCP Parent & Me
While Hanford police have already raised enough money to replace the stolen playground equipment, Chief Parker Sever says his department will still accept donations for the Hanford center that helps children with disabilities. Donations can be sent to 425 N. Irwin St., Hanford, or people can call (559) 585-4730 with questions.