Hundreds of bears infiltrated the San Bernardino police department a few weeks back, and thanks to the men and women in uniform, those same bears are starting to infiltrate the rooms of city children.
While sweeping the closed Carousel Mall for its boarding up last month, city workers discovered hundreds of plush pals abandoned inside a former Hallmark shop.
Police Department officials received a call.
Several dozen teddy bears keep a watchful eye on the San Bernardino Police Department’s Community Affairs Division. The bears were found earlier this year in a Hallmark store inside the Carousel Mall. (Photo by Brian Whitehead, The Sun/SCNG)
Along with traditional teddy bears, San Bernardino police officers are handing out stuffed representations of popular characters to children in the community. (Photo by Brian Whitehead, The Sun/SCNG)
A stuffed Spongebob Squarepants hides behind popular Disney characters inside the office of the San Bernardino Police Department’s Community Affairs Division. (Photo by Brian Whitehead, The Sun/SCNG)
A teddy bear from a Hallmark location in the closed Carousel Mall sits in a briefing room at San Bernardino Police Department headquarters. (Photo by Brian Whitehead, The Sun/SCNG)
San Bernardino police officers are handing teddy bears out to children in the community to hopefully bring the gap between the public and law enforcement. Officer Sergio Alvarez has distributed several to San Bernardino children. (Photo by Brian Whitehead, The Sun/SCNG)
Shortly thereafter, Sadie Albers and Lt. Mike Madden, police spokespeople, lugged approximately 50 bags of teddy bears out of the mall and into department headquarters. Among the lot were stuffed Disney characters (Mickey Mouse and Goofy) and popular television headliners (SpongeBob SquarePants and Garfield).
Also, Ty Beanie Babies.
“We thought they would be good things to give out to the community,” said Albers, whose desk is now under the watchful eye of assorted teddy bears. “A small act of kindness to bring a smile to kids’ faces. To make the community happier.”
Shortly after their adoption, San Bernardino police officers began distributing the playthings to children they encountered on domestic calls, enforcement stops or simply inside convenience stores and fast food joints.
Second-year officer Sergio Alvarez said the responses – from parents, especially – have been overwhelming.
“Unfortunately some of these children see a lot of negative: in the way they’re being raised, in their community, what they’re always looking at,” the 28-year-old father said. “When we come across, it’s always nice to give that positive reinforcement. The bears help; they’re not needed, but you give them a bear and the kids get all lit up.
“It’s awesome. It’s beautiful.”
Pictures of bear-bearing officers with local families are being shared on social media by the department’s community affairs division. Officials expect the giving to continue through Valentine’s Day.
#Bearsfromtheblue, San Bernardino division heads are calling the initiative.
Eileen Hards, community engagement officer, said she hopes the gesture helps bridge the gap between the public and law enforcement. By engaging children voluntarily and independent of tragedy, police officers can begin building relationships with a new generation.
“It’s nice to give back that one little bit,” Alvarez said. “You count your own blessings when you see kids that don’t really have much. Regardless of who’s giving them a bear, it’s nice for them to see that someone cares about them.
“That’s our ultimate goal,” Alvarez continued. “Something simple like a teddy bear can make a world of difference to a family.”