BY HEIDI ULRICHSEN
Two generations of children in Greater Sudbury are more street wise thanks to school liason officer Denise Fraser, a member of the Greater
Sudbury Police Service.
Since 1984, Fraser has spread her message of safety and preparedness at schools and special events throughout the community.
Â?SheÂ?s the one who has been here far longer than anybody else,Â? says her boss, Sgt. Wayne Foster.
Â?She has been able to pass through generations (of schoolchildren)...That influence is there. In a community of our size, it creates a close-knit sort of feeling. The effect that you want as a police agency, to get that positive message out, is something that sheÂ?s able to deliver.Â?
Fraser, along with Special Const. Luc Joliat, now runs bike safety, cyber-proofing, anti-bullying, drug awareness, mine safety, car safety, winter safety and water safety programs for the police force. Fraser developed many of these programs herself.
The former Ontario Humane Society worker, dental assistant and real estate agent says she does it all because she loves kids of all ages, and wants to keep them safe.
Â?I love children. It doesnÂ?t matter how old they are. I love them from newborns to 18 years old...Often times people prefer them at a certain age, and I think the older they get, the more of a challenge they present,Â? she says.
Â?I think the older kids, theyÂ?re inquisitive, and they ask a lot of questions. I love interacting with them. IÂ?m very fortunate I have a job I love doing. Not many people can say that. I get up in the morning with a smile on my face.Â?
Fraser was in on the very beginning of community policing in Sudbury. Although a few officers occasionally made bike safety presentations before 1984, children really had very little to do with the police.
Â?I remember my first visit to my first school. The first group I was seeing was a little group of junior kindergarten and senior kindergarten (students), and when I walked in (the room) in uniform, a dozen kids started to cry,Â? she says.
Â?Back then, the minute I walked into the school, naturally all the kids thought somebody did something wrong. I guess from television, and cop shows and whatnot, they got the perception that the only time you got to see police officers or anyone in uniform...was when you were in trouble.Â?
That reaction didnÂ?t last for long. By her third year on the job, Fraser had acquired a Â?fan clubÂ? that often showed up in unusual places.
Â?IÂ?m known in the schools as Â?Mrs. Fraser,Â?Â? she says. Â?I canÂ?t do groceries without having a little following and kids saying, Â?mommy, thatÂ?s Mrs. Fraser.Â? I remember my youngest child, Jenny, when she was about five. I was grocery shopping...and she was sitting in the cart, and some kids were talking to me. She (Jenny) kept saying Â?thatÂ?s my mommy.Â?Â?
Now Fraser is onto her second generation of schoolchildren - the offspring of those she taught in the 1980s. Young adults who remember her from school presentations often approach her when sheÂ?s out in public.
The school liaison officer says she believes her work in schools has made a difference. When she first started, many kids were getting hurt in cycling accidents because they werenÂ?t wearing helmets. ItÂ?s a different story today.
Â?Even the kids that arenÂ?t wearing their helmet are aware that they are not wearing them. Meaning to say that they choose not to, but theyÂ?re looking around all the time because theyÂ?re aware that they should be. A lot more kids are wearing them,Â? she says.
Â?ThereÂ?s a lot less children dying from concussions and brain injuries because of helmets.Â?
Now that the bike safety message is a familiar one, Fraser has moved onto many other ventures, including preventing bullying in schools. She and Joliat even provide mediation between bullies and victims upon referral from a principal.
Â?I tell them itÂ?s not acceptable...It doesnÂ?t matter how mad you are, I donÂ?t care what the person did to you. You retaliate the same way... (and) youÂ?re just as bad as they are. What we have to do is make them know if they are a victim, to not tolerate it, but talk to somebody about it,Â? she says.
Bullying is not a rite of passage, contrary to the opinion of some parents who say they turned out fine after being bullied as children, says Fraser.
Â?No youÂ?re not (fine), because youÂ?re talking about it. If you were fine, you wouldnÂ?t be talking about it. You wouldnÂ?t remember it.Â?
But in the year 2005, children face much more daunting dangers than schoolyard bullies. ThatÂ?s why Fraser created the cyber-proofing program.
When she gives presentations, Fraser is often shocked by what she hears from kids. About 40 percent say they chat online with strangers.
There is no way to know whether they are talking to another 12-year-old or a pedophile.
Â?We parents, because of the ever-changing technology, are always scrambling. We tell the parents to sit down with your kids. Have them show
you something. Talk about internet use. But you have to be aware that there are predators out there.Â?