'Boys in Blue' pairs young boys with RPD officer mentors

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond police officers are building unique bonds with young boys through a new mentor program called Boys in Blue.

Teachers at Swansboro Elementary School chose 16 boys in third through fifth grade for the program. The children are paired with RPD officers and spend time each week together.

"I'll talk about his job and how he's busting crimes and stuff," said Santino Mosqueda, a fifth-grader in the program.

For some of the kids, it's a change from how they might often encounter police.

"Most of the time when we see (the children), it's because something bad has happened to them," said Lt. Kelly O'Connell, who is a Boys in Blue mentor officer. "This way, we can just talk to them about school and sports, and they can get to know us as human beings, instead of just a person in a uniform."

The boys see first-hand what it's like to be an officer. They also get encouragement and help in navigating difficult situations, from someone other than a parent or teacher.

"Some of the kids, their home-life is a little more complicated, so that was a different aspect we had to deal with this year, as well," said Lt. Kelly O'Connell.

Both the boys and the officers are excited about their new buddies, and even spending time on weekends.

"One Sunday, (my son's mentor officer) actually brought Krispy Kreme donuts to us," said mom Sharise Yates. "They'll go on different adventures. It's a helpful program for the boys to keep them out of trouble and for someone to look up to, as well."

Boys in Blue organizer Briggette Mimms-Sears says the officers involved bring love and support to the students and the community.

"I think it's been a fantastic way to show that the officers are not just here and looked at in a bad or disheartening fashion," said Boys in Blue organizer Brigette Mimms-Sears.

Mimms-Sears hopes to expand the Boys in Blue program to all Richmond city public schools in years to come.

"What I think of police officers ... It's kind of like people who save the world from crime, kind of like a comic book, like batman," added Santino.

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