Children learn safety from ‘Officer Phil’


By Wayne Gates –

Georgetown Elementary students received an age-appropriate safety lesson last month, disguised as entertainment.
Tom Rozoff with Creative Safety Products introduced himself as “Magic Tom” to a group of kids between five and eight years old, and began talking to them about respect, bullying and stranger awareness.
The program began with Rozoff holding an empty “bucket of respect” that began to fill with foam stars as the children suggested ways to be respectful.
Rozoff then used red, yellow and green balls to discuss bullying, both in person and online.
He encouraged the kids to be aware of what behavior could be considered bullying and used the yellow and red balls as “caution” and “stop” cues, while using magic tricks to make the balls seem to change color.
The final lesson was about stranger awareness, with Rozoff using a “magic drawing board” to draw a stranger for the children to describe to Georgetown Police Chief Robert Freeland, who attended the assembly.
Once the “stranger” was fully drawn, he used the board to make the eyes and mouth move, to the delight of the children.
Rozoff used specific details in the drawing to teach the children what to look for when describing someone to a police officer.
Following the program, Freeland said he was impressed with the message and the execution of program.
“It gets the kids interested and interactive with something fun and it teaches a good lesson in the process.  Hopefully, it’s something that will stick with them throughout the year,” he said.
Freeland also talked about the experience of visiting young children at school.
“Nothing can recharge a police officer like walking through an elementary school and seeing how all the kids want to high five and hug and say hi.  It brightens your day,” he said.
“Any interaction we can have with the kids and let them know we are here to protect them and that we love them and want them to be safe is valuable.”
Rozoff said he has been performing as “Magic Tom for 21 years.
He said that while performing is fun, the message is serious.
“Mostly what you see at schools are smiling faces, but if you go to officerphil.com, you’ll see testimonials about how kids were saved from a dangerous situation because of what we taught them,” he said.
“We’ve had cases of a child not going with a stranger because of what we’re doing here today.   How can it be any more rewarding than that?”
Rozoff said part of the program is getting kids to recognize police officers as people that kids can approach and ask for help.
“One of the other things we do is present the police department in a positive light.  The chief is here, which is great.  He’s showing support for the students and reaching them at a young age where they know he’s a friend rather than the guy who may have arrested a family member,” Rozoff said.
He added that he feels like he’s got one of the best jobs in the world.
“To do this job, you have to love children.  It’s just such a pleasure to see them happy.  Getting them to laugh is nice, but to know you’ve helped them is an even greater satisfaction.”