The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) re-launched its Community Bear Program Friday afternoon.
The OPP announced a new partnership with the OPP Youth Foundation (OPPYF) and the Ontario Provincial Police Association Credit Union (OPPACU) to ensure that the Community Bear Program continues serving youth, people with disabilities, and vulnerable people in tragic situations.
Inspector Mary Shannon from Community Safety Services was at OPP General Headquarters on Friday afternoon to speak to community members and fellow OPP staff about the program.
“We have community bears in the back of every police cruiser in the province of Ontario,” she said. “Officers that are responding to someone involved with a traumatic incident are there to provide some comfort to the individual.”
Shannon says the gift of a teddy bear can help put a child at ease in moments when they need comfort.
“Situations can be confusing,” she said. “The bear gives the officer an opportunity to provide the child with an item that they likely have associated with comfort from their own life experiences.”
Two classes from Huntsville Public School attended the Community Bear Program re-launch event on Friday afternoon.
“It’s really important for us to share these community initiatives,” Shannon said. “The more that community members are aware of some of the great programs that we have, the more they associate a positive relationship with our officers.”
Shannon says it’s important for youth to know that in a serious or traumatic incident, officers are there to provide support.
Having community partners like OPPACU and OPPYF partner with the Community Bear Program is “significant,” Shannon says.
“To have a community-minded organization support an initiative like this, that supports youth in our communities, is significant for us,” she said.