BRADENTON -- Bradenton police will soon be keeping a keen eye on children in the city. They're not looking out for offenses, though.
They're searching for the complete opposite.
"Kids being polite, kids helping out each other, kids using sidewalks, kids using crosswalks, kids using bicycle helmets," Bradenton Lt. Brian Thiers said Monday afternoon. "Anything that could be positive. ... If an officer goes out on a call and a child is being nice to us, why not?"
The Bradenton Police Department is participating in "Operation Chill," a program sponsored by 7-Eleven convenience stores in which police officers will "ticket" children caught doing good deeds with a free Slurpee coupon. Each coupon can be redeemed for a small Slurpee at participating 7-Eleven stores, according to the release.
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Thiers said this is the first time BPD is participating in the program.
"7-Eleven was gracious enough to give us 1,900 (coupons) and they expire at the end of this year," he said. "Hopefully, this year we can get them out as much as we can to the public. We're thinking with back to school revving up next week, our officers will be around the schools anyway so it's a great time to start the program."
Thiers said most coupons will be distributed among school resource and patrol officers, but the agency will also give them out at the front desk of the BPD main station and through detectives.
"Unfortunately, in today's society, usually whenever kids or people see the police, something bad has happened where the police are involved -- whether it's a traffic accident or domestic violence or something was stolen," said BPD Chief Michael Radzilowski. "This is just a little thing that can put the police in a positive light. ... The kids get a perspective that these are their neighborhood police officers and they're here to protect them."
Asked if he plans on "ticketing" children, Radzilowski said he certainly does. "I have two books (of coupons) on my desk," he said.
Operation Chill was developed by 7-Eleven Inc. to reward good behavior and support law enforcement community relations projects, according to the release.
"I don't know who likes the Operation Chill program more, police officers or kids," Mark Stinde, 7-Eleven vice president of asset protection, said in a written statement. "Police officers have told us they love having a positive reason to approach kids and surprise them with a Slurpee coupon, just for being good citizens."
According to Thiers, Bradenton police officers want children to trust them and know they can reach out to them for help if they need it. "The biggest part of it is communication," he said. "It's definitely another avenue. It's another route that we can go out and do what we're already doing -- communicating with them -- and say 'By the way, here's a free Slurpee.' We're pretty excited."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.