New program in Fresno County hopes to improve relationships between police and community

FRESNO COUNTY (KFSN) -- Fifth grader Riley Arnold is not the same kid he was three years ago.

"I'm not yelling and I'm not getting into fights that much. Which if you ask the principal at my school, yes, I got into fights a lot."

When he was in second grade Riley got matched up in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program in Madera County called Bigs in Blue. It pairs children with members of the Madera County Probation Department who meet up during lunch time.

Riley got matched with deputy chief probation officer Chris Childers.

"Just spending time together was more important to him and more important to me, and what we did didn't matter as long as we were hanging out talking and doing something fun," said Chris Childers, Madera County Deputy Chief Probation Officer.

Childers and Riley spend at least an hour together each week playing sports, doing homework, or sometimes just sitting down and talking. They are thankful for each other's friendship and the positive impact it's made to both of them.

Now, after three successful years in Madera, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California is excited to be bringing the same Bigs in Blue program to Fresno County.

"We're going to start recruiting law enforcement as well as anyone who supports law enforcement to be a lunch buddy to be there at the elementary site that we chose-- we currently chose three. It's going to be at Kirk Elementary, Lowell Elementary, and Madison Elementary," said Diane Phakonekham, Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Phakonekham hopes to match 15 to 20 kids at each school with a law enforcement employee or friend.

"It's very important because law enforcement, they do so much for us. They keep us safe, they're there when we need them, so we need the community to join forces and support one another."

And now they are supporting children in Madera, and now Fresno counties, too.

"At school we usually go into the library, play on the computers after we read and mostly we just go outside," said Riley.

"I think it gets down to the basics of what community policing really is-- it's connecting community with public service," said Childers.

Officers are now building up the community one friendship at a time.
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