Click here for PDF version

What are Children Learning About Police Officers From Children's Literature?

Cindy Gillespie Hendricks, James E. Hendricks, Lauranne Beeler

      Everyone remembers at least one of the following famous television or movie police officers: Dragnet’s Sergeant Joe Friday, Adam-12’s Malloy, In the Heat of the Night’s Tubbs and Gillespie, Miami Vice’s Rico and Sunny, Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry Callahan, Bruce Willis’ McClane, Hal Linden’s Barney Miller, and Peter Falk’s Columbo. These characters were part of television’s past and are currently still available for viewing. More current police programs, Law & Order and NYPD Blue, for example, continue to provide viewers with an arm-chair view of policing. Not only are we able to view fictional police, with the onset of reality-based television, we are also able to see actual footage of police officers at work in shows like COPS and Real TV.

Some of the aforementioned television shows about police officers offered and continue to offer violence, mystery, intrigue, and fast-paced action, leading viewers to believe that the role of the police officer is confined to law enforcement: preventing crime, detecting crime, and apprehending criminals (Langworthy & Travis, 1994). However, according to Skolnick and Bayley (1986), this perception is incorrect: “Only ‘Dirty Harry’ has his lunch disturbed by a bank robbery in progress” (p. 4) and “most officers on patrol do not stumble across felony crimes in progress—only Dirty Harry does” (p. 4).


The Reality of Policing

This crime-fighter image does not accurately depict the daily roles and responsibilities of police officers (Hendricks & Hendricks, 1998). According to Peak (1997), most Americans probably do not have an accurate idea of what the police really do. Goldstein suggests, “Anyone attempting to construct a workable definition of the police role will typically come away with old images shattered and with a new-found appreciation for the intricacies of police work”(1977, p. 21). In fact,

The crime-fighter view certainly differs from the manner in which the police are portrayed in fictional movies and television programs. (Indeed, many present and former police practitioners agree that the most realistic television program on policing in the past decade or two was none other than Barney Miller). Yet the crime-fighter image persists, although it is extremely harmful to the public, police departments, and individual officers. (Peak, 1997, p. 58)

Even the reality-based television programs place a heavy emphasis on the crime-fighting role of the police for the purposes of ratings. These shows would not be on the airways very long if 15-20 minutes of each show were dedicated to a realistic portrayal of what police actually do.

While the general population maintains the image of police officers as crime fighters, focusing on their law enforcement role, the police actually perform roles that go beyond law enforcement to include order maintenance, crime prevention, and social service. Contemporary introductory textbooks on policing assert that 75-90% of police work falls into the order maintenance, crime prevention, and social service categories, while only 10-25% is in law enforcement (Dempsey, 1994; Langworthy & Travis, 1994: Roberg & Kuykendall, 1993). Thus, police officers actually spend the majority of their time on the job maintaining order, preventing crime and providing services to the community. Interestingly, Reiss (1971) found that the average police officer’s typical day on duty does not involve a single arrest.

This difference between what police officers do and what citizens think they do is perpetuated by the portrayal of police officers on television and in movies. Each portrayal of law enforcement officers influences the general public’s perceptions of what life is like as a police officer. Changing the image of the police officer from law enforcer to peacekeeper and public servant has been identified as a priority as increasing numbers of police agencies move toward community and problem-oriented policing (President's Crime Commission, 1967).

      Because most citizens do not have direct contact with the police with the exception of the occasional traffic ticket (which most people deny they deserve), opinions about what police officers do are formed through vicarious experiences such as television, movies, and books. These vicarious experiences may either support or refute the public’s, including children’s, image of the roles and responsibilities of a police officer.

      Given that television generally focuses on the law enforcement responsibilities of police officers, and that children watch approximately 3 to 5 hours of television every day (Spencer, 1993) or 22-28 hours per week (Global ChildNet,, it is more likely than not that children view police officers as crime fighters, rather than service providers since younger children experience difficulty separating fact from fiction as well as analyzing a character’s actions, motives, and intentions. Van Evra (1999) supports this view:

Child viewers…are in very active developmental stages. Their attitudes, beliefs, and ideas about the world, as well as physical and social skills, are taking form; and they absorb information from everywhere. Because of the considerable number of hours spent viewing television, however, television becomes a disproportionately informational and attitudinal source. (p. xii)

Correcting the image of what police officers do on a daily basis is one of the goals of community policing programs, since attitudes toward police are more negative among Blacks and Latinos and people with low socio-economic status (Sampson and Jeglum-Bartusch, 1999). According to Dempsey (1994), “Young children are a special target of the police in police community relations programs, because they are impressionable, and it is believed that if a child learns something early enough in life, it will stay with him or her forever” (p. 182). One program targeted toward children is the Officer Friendly program. The intent of this program is, “to encourage young children to view police officers as friends by getting to know one or more individual officers” (Dempsey, 1994, p. 184). The Officer Friendly program includes visits by police officers to public schools where they talk with children about their roles and responsibilities.

Another way that children may learn about the role and responsibilities of police officers is through children’s literature. With the increased emphasis on literature in the elementary schools and the integration of literature into the content areas, one logical way to change these perceptions is through reading. Capitalizing on children’s natural desires and interests to communicate with those in their world through language and reading, books provide children with additional information about their world through vicarious experiences. Because today’s contemporary children’s books tends to reflect our society and its problems, young children should have access to books that accurately portray the roles and responsibilities of police officers.

Few, if any, resources exist which provide lists of contemporary books for children about police officers, or that include police officers as characters. Therefore, this study was designed to (1) identify recently published children’s books that focus on police officers and policing and (2) evaluate the portrayal of policing and police officers in children’s literature.

Methods and Procedures

This study, designed to evaluate children’s literature for its portrayal of policing and police officers, focused on recently published (1990 to present) children’s books. Although over 30 books were found that met the publication date criterion, only 19 books focused on police and policing, meaning that policing and police officers were central to the theme or plot of the book. The remaining 11 books simply mentioned the police as a part of the plot, but the officers were not central to the plot or theme of the book. For example, one book mentioned that a police officer was called and arrived at the scene. No further discussion followed regarding what the officer did or how the officer handled the situation. Thus, the discussion of books will be limited to the 19 books that met the publication criterion and the content criterion.

Each book was read and summarized. Since many introductory policing textbooks identify police roles and responsibilities as falling into one of three categories (law enforcement, peacekeeping, and public service), each book was read again to determine whether it focused on the law enforcement, peacekeeping, or public service aspect of policing. Books were then identified as to which of the roles was the focus of the book. A fourth category, total responsibilities, was added for those books emphasizing all aspects of policing.

Finally, each book was evaluated based on the image of the police portrayed in the book. Each book was labeled as a positive or negative portrayal of police officers with supporting justification for the rating included in the analysis section of each book.


Summary of Book Content

Of the 19 books summarized for inclusion in this investigation, 16 discussed life as a police officer and/or various aspects of policing and portrayed what officers do on the job. Of the remaining books, Sebastian, Super Sleuth and the Impossible Crime (Christian, 1992), was an account of a dog who solves a burglary; Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Nice Police Officer (Gruelle, 1999) was about two children who help an officer, and Officer Buckle and Gloria (Rathmann, 1995) portrayed a police officer and his dog who gave safety speeches to children.

Eight of the books wove information about policing and police officers through story lines such as children visiting a police station (3 books), a stolen bike (2 books), the results of a police lecture (1 book), a bank robbery/bombing (1 book), and an investigation of a murder using bones (1 book). Eight of the books did not involve a story line; rather, these books told of what a police officer’s job entailed and described how a police officer spends his/her day. Three books involved dogs; two books (Patrol Dogs: Keeping the Peace, Ring, 1994; Detector Dogs: Hot on the Scent, Ring, 1993) were non-fiction accounts of the role of canine officers, while the other, Sebastian (Super Sleuth) and the Impossible Crime, was a fictional account of a dog who wanted to solve crimes.

Classification of Books

Of the nineteen books read and analyzed (see Appendix), two of the books were identified as focusing on the public safety aspect of policing; nine books focused on law enforcement, while eight books were classified as portraying the total responsibilities of police officers (public service, law enforcement, peacekeeping). The category into which each book was placed is identified in parenthesis after the bibliographic data for each book (See Appendix).

Two books were categorized as emphasizing the public service aspects of policing. I am a Police Officer (Benjamin, 1995) and Officer Buckle and Gloria focused on police officers giving safety lectures at local schools.

Of the nine books classified as emphasizing the law enforcement aspect of policing, four books (In My Neighborhood: Police Officers, Bourgeois & LeFave, 1992; Sebastian (Super Sleuth) and the Impossible Crime; Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Nice Police Officer; The Bone Detectives, Jackson, 1996) focused on catching criminals (a bike thief, an art thief, a magic cooking stick thief, and murderer, respectively). Risky Business (Greenberg, 1996), Patrol Dogs: Keeping the Peace, and Detector Dogs: Hot on the Scent focused on special units (bomb squad and dogs) used to help police with the law enforcement aspect of their jobs. The two remaining books, The Police Station (Kallen, 1997) and Police Patrol (Winkleman, 1996) were also placed in this category because they emphasized tools and equipment necessary for officers to perform their law enforcer roles.

The remaining eight books (A Day in the Life of a Police Officer, Arnold, 1994; Barney and B.J. Go to the Police Station, Berenthal, 1998; Great Places to Visit: Police Stations, Cooper, 1992; A Visit to the Police Station, Hannum, 1993; I’m Going to be a Police Officer, Kunhardt, 1995; What’s It Like to be a …Police Officer, Pellowski, 1990; Community Helpers: Police Officers, Ready, 1997; Sergeant Murphy’s Busy Day, Scarry, 1997) seemed to portray the law enforcement, public service, and peacekeeping aspects of policing. Generally, each of these books identified all aspects of policing to give a more complete picture of what being a police officer means and what a police officer actually does.

Analysis of Police Images

      In terms of the positive and negative portrayals of police officers, all but three books portrayed policing and police officers in a very positive light. The officers were portrayed as hard-working, dedicated officers whose job is “to protect and to serve.” All seemed to portray police roles and responsibilities accurately, although some, as mentioned earlier, were very limited in their coverage of the various aspects of police work.

The three books with negative images of police officers were: Officer Buckle and Gloria; Sebastian ( Super Sleuth) and the Impossible Crime; and Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Nice Police Officer. Officer Buckle and Gloria is positive in its portrayal of Officer Buckle and his desire to help school-age children. The story’s message regarding teamwork is also positive; however, some readers may perceive overweight Officer Buckle as a self-centered officer who becomes jealous of the attention received by Gloria. The second book which may connote negative images is Sebastian (Super Sleuth) and the Impossible Crime. The book does positively portray the work of detectives in solving crimes; however, the fact that with all their knowledge and police work, a dog is more successful than the police at solving the case, may lead some to develop negative perceptions regarding the detectives’ ability to solve crimes. Of all the books read and analyzed, the final book, Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Nice Police Officer, evokes the most negative image of police officers. The nice police officer is portrayed as a crying coward who doesn’t want to make an arrest. He is unable to decide what to do until Raggedy Ann and Andy help him. All the decisions about what to do and how to handle the case are made by the two children. On a positive note, the book does portray the Nice Police Officer as one who doesn’t like making arrests.

We would be remiss in our investigation if we did not include a side commentary regarding the contents of three of the books reviewed. While each of the three books connotes a positive image of policing and police officers, each book contains some information that may be upsetting to children, teachers and parents. The first book, What's it Like to be a …Police Officer may give readers the impression that police are always successful in their quests. Children may need to understand that not all lost bicycles are found and returned to their rightful owners. The message in this book could lead to disappointment for children who have lost things, or whose families have been burglarized, because police are not always successful in recovering stolen property.

The second book which may be problematic for children, teachers and parents alike is Risky Business: Bomb Squad Officer. This book contained a section on how to make bombs, including identifying common substances/chemicals found around the house, which may also be used to make bombs.

The final book, Police Patrol is a positive book about policing and police officers. However, the book contains an illustration of a prison, which shows three prisoners sitting at computers with a G.E.D. book sitting next to them. Two other inmates are shown listening to a radio while working in a wood shop with the word “PRIDE” written in colorful letters on the wall of the shop. This image may glorify prison for some readers, sending an incorrect message that prison isn't necessarily a bad place.


      Because much of today’s contemporary fiction tends to reflect our society and its problems, books may be used to help children understand societal issues, such as policing and the roles and responsibilities of police officers. Reading stories that accurately portray the roles and responsibilities of police officers can influence children to view policing in a positive manner. The books that were read and analyzed for this investigation attempted not only to portray police officers in a positive manner, but to also accurately educate children about policing and the roles and responsibilities of police officers.

Using materials specifically geared for children (fact or fiction picture books or storybooks) may provide law enforcement officers with additional resources to be used in educating children about their roles and responsibilities. Programs such as Officer Friendly may be enhanced by including children’s books in their presentations, particularly if the officers read the books to the children. Research continues to support the benefits of reading aloud to children and also supports the notion that children enjoy reading and listening to stories being read aloud. They also enjoy discussing what they read or heard. Discussion provides the means by which students demonstrate their understanding of the content and also by which students learn from each other. Such discussions may help students resolve the conflicting information about policing and police officers that children receive from television and movies as opposed to the information they would receive from the books included in this investigation.

Abraham Lincoln once said “Children are the persons who are going to carry on what you have started. They will sit where you are sitting. They will assume control of your cities, state, and nations. They will take over your churches, schools, universities and corporations. The fate of humanity is in their hands” (Hendricks & Hendricks, 1998). To prepare today’s children to assume this monumental task, we must ensure that they are provided with accurate and appropriate information from which they can make informed decisions.





Arnold, E. (1994). A day in the life of a police officer. New York: Scholastic.

Benjamin, C. (1995). I am a police officer. New York: Barron's Educational Services, Inc.

Berenthal, M. (1998). Barney and B.J. go to the police station. Allen, TX: Lyons Partnership.

Bourgeois, P., & LaFave, K. (1992). In my neighborhood: Police officers. Buffalo: Kids Can Press Ltd.

Christian, M. (1992). Sebastian (super sleuth) and the impossible crime. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Cooper, J. (1992). Great places to visit: Police stations. Vero Beach, FL: The Rourke Corporation.

Dempsey, J. (1994). Policing: An introduction to law enforcement. New York: West Publishing.

Global ChildNet.  Available: ISS4-21c.html.

Goldstein, H. (1977). Policing a free society. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger Publishing.

Greenberg, K. (1996). Risky business: Bomb squad officer. Woodbridge, CT: Blackbirch Press Book.

Gruelle, J. (1999). Raggedy Ann and Andy and the nice police officer. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Hannum, D. (1993). A visit to the police station. Chicago: Regensteiner Publishing.

Hendricks, C., & Hendricks, J. (1998, December). Using children’s literature in policing. The Police Chief, LXV (12), pp. 54-61.

Jackson, D. (1996). The bone detectives. Boston: Little Brown & Company.

Kallen, S. (1997). The police station. Edina, MN: Abdo & Daughters.

Sampson, R., & Jeglum Bartusch, D. (1999, June). Attitudes toward crime, police, and the law: Individual and neighborhood differences. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.

Spencer, M. (1993). Kid’s Source Online. What Do Parents Need To Know About Children's Television Viewing? Available: kidsource/content/TV.viewing.html#contents.

Kunhardt, E. (1995). I'm going to be a police officer. New York: Scholastic.

Langworthy, R., & Travis, L. (1994). Policing in America: A balance of forces. New York: Macmillan.

Peak, K. (1997). Policing America (2nd Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Pellowski, M. (1990). What's it like to be a …police officer. Mahwah, NJ: Troll Associates.

President's Crime Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice. (1967). The challenge of crime in a free society. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.

Rathmann, P. (1995). Officer Buckle and Gloria. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.

Ready, D. (1997). Community helpers: Police officers. Mankato, MN: Bridgestone Books.

Reiss, A. (1971). The police and the public. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Robert, R., & Kuykendall, J. (1993). Police & society. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.

Ring, E. (1994). Patrol dogs: Keeping the peace. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press.

Ring, E. (1993). Detector dogs: Hot on the scent. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press.

Scarry, R. (1997). Sergeant Murphy's busy day. New York: J.B. Communications.

Skolnick, J., & Bayley, D. (1986). The new blue line: Police innovation in six American cities. New York: The Free Press.

Van Evra, J. (1990). Television and Child Development. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum

Winkleman, K. (1996). Police patrol. New York: Walker and Company.



Appendix: Book Summaries and Analyses

Arnold, E. (1994). A day in the life of a police officer. New York: Scholastic. (Total Responsibilities)


This book follows Kathy Murphy, a female officer on the Cambridge, Massachusetts police force, throughout her eight-hour shift as she responds to calls mostly involving noise violations and stolen property. Police equipment and police vehicles are described. Details are provided regarding what a person might expect if he/she wanted to become a police officer. Several full color photos depict the inside of a police station as well as the police officer’s uniform. Definitions of crucial terms allow the reader to understand vocabulary related to police work. Protection of the citizens and maintaining good relationships with them are emphasized throughout the book.


The story line is simple: a female police officer patrols, does paper work, pulls over cars, and sits and observes the area that she is in charge of keeping safe. The police are involved in community policing as opposed to high-speed car chases and fighting violent crime. Teamwork is stressed throughout the book. Children who read this book will acquire knowledge about the roles and responsibilities of police officers and the equipment used on the job. This book portrays very positive image of the police.


Benjamin, C. (1995). I am a police officer. New York: Barron’s Educational Services, Inc. (Public Service)


This book is about two police officers who are giving a safety lecture at a local school. During the presentation, the children ask the police officers what their jobs are like. On their way home, two children from the class observe the police officers in action. When they find a wallet and return it to the police station, they are given a tour of the entire facility. They are able to see the police officers doing different types of work, which makes the children want to become police officers. When they go home, they play police and try to help a friend find a missing kitten. When they finally find the missing kitten in the bushes, they comment on how they like helping others and how good it makes them feel.


The police in this story are helpful to the children and answer their questions. The book begins with the police coming into the children’s “territory," which would help children feel a little more comfortable. The story discusses the roles and responsibilities of police officers, detectives, and dispatchers. The police are all very helpful and polite to the children.

Bernthal, M. (1998). Barney and B.J. go to the police station. Allen, TX: Lyons Partnership. (Total Responsibilities)


Barney and BJ visit the Plano Police Department, where an officer takes them on a tour. First, they see a swearing-in ceremony for new officers. The officer explains that the officers are promising to protect and help everyone. Then, he describes ways police officers help people and the different types of vehicles they use. They are shown a holding cell, the fingerprinting center, the dispatch area and the K-9 facility. The officer warns them not to bother the dogs while they are working. He explains that the dogs are trained to find things or people with their sense of smell, and to protect police officers. A police officer’s uniform and the tools they use are described. He warns Barney and BJ that if they ever see a gun, they should leave it alone and inform an adult.


A book such as this one can promote a positive image of police to children so they feel comfortable reporting an incident to the police. Police officers are shown fulfilling many different tasks including traffic directing, dispatching, and peace keeping through the use of photographs. The police officers guide Barney and BJ through the police station. The officers teach a lot of lessons about safety at school and the safety of firearms. Because of its use of a popular children’s character, Barney the Purple Dinosaur, this book is an excellent resource to teach children about policing.

Bourgeois, P., & LaFave, K. (1992). In my neighborhood: Police officers. Buffalo: Kids Can Press Ltd. (Law Enforcement)


Natalie is awakened by a noise outside her window. Thinking the bicycle thieves are outside, she awakens her parents who call the police. Two officers respond. They explain that they didn’t use their siren so as not to scare away the thief. The officers search the neighborhood and find nothing. On her way to school the next morning, Natalie sees a suspicious van parked by the school. She writes down the license plate number and tells her principal who calls the police. They catch the bike thieves. The story line follows the thieves through the criminal justice system. The different roles of the police, types of police officers, different means of transportation, and items carried by a police officer are described. The last few pages provide tips on staying safe in various situations.


This story gives a positive overview of police officers’ jobs. In My Neighborhood: Police Officers deals with almost everything that a policeman might do by weaving factual information about policing and police officers through a bike theft plot. This story encourages children not to be afraid to call the police. The story portrays policemen as intelligent, caring individuals who respond to all situations. The policemen’s role was to serve and protect.

Christian, M. (1992). Sebastian (Super Sleuth) and the impossible crime. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. (Law Enforcement)



This book is about a dog whose master is a policeman. A painting is mysteriously stolen from an art exhibit and Sebastian, the dog, wants to solve the case. The crime seems impossible to solve because no one had gone in or out of the room as guards were at every entrance. Yet, the painting is gone after the lights went out for only five seconds!  Everyone is still in the room who had been there before and nothing else was altered. The police check out every possibility only to come up shorthanded. Eventually, Sebastian solves the case.


Although written for children, the author provides insight into the process used by detectives to solve a crime. Trying to figure out motives, means and opportunity gives the perceptions of a very skilled and intelligent aspect of policing which may not normally be seen in other children’s books. It shows the long hours and hard work that policemen work to solve a crime. This book provides children with an overview of a detective and shows how skillful policemen must be to logically think through clues.

Cooper, J. (1992). Great places to visit: Police stations. Vero Beach, FL: The Rourke Corporation, Inc. (Total Responsibilities)


In this non-fiction book, Cooper provides a very brief and basic overview of policing. The book teaches children about the inner workings of a police station, and the lives of police officers. Special areas in a police station are also discussed including the fingerprint room and the dispatch room. The book covers topics such as job descriptions, police stations, officers, labs, programs, equipment, detectives, jails, suspects, different types of law enforcement and what activities go on in a police station. The author also provides definitions for nine police-related terms such as “beat” and “paddy wagon.” Although the book is short, it discusses many things that may be unfamiliar to children.


Cooper’s officers provide many services to the public, such as helping people, searching for criminals, and preventing crime. Cooper strengthens this positive portrayal by ending the book with a description of the work that officers do with students and teachers, and many other organizations. Because of the way that Cooper presents the information, children who read this book will regard police officers as very caring individuals who strive to protect the community from danger, and deter criminal activity before it occurs. By including the glossary at the end of the book, Cooper also allows young readers to better understand some the lingo used in policing.

Greenberg, K. (1996). Risky business: Bomb squad officer. Woodbridge, CT: Blackbirch Press Book. (Law Enforcement)


This book begins with a man coming into a bank to rob it, claiming he has a bomb. Throughout this story, the author infuses a discussion of the dangerous job of a bomb squad officer. Photos are included of the tools that a bomb squad uses. The author also talked about the workings of the Newark Bomb Squad and how dogs help locate bombs by using their keen sense of smell. It also includes pictures and discussions of the New York Trade Center bombing, the Pan Am flight over Scotland, and the Oklahoma Federal Building bombing.


Although the mood of the book is dismal due to its content, the author provided an interesting view of this topic by using a news story approach to explain what a bomb squad officer does and feels, emotionally and physically. Quotes from real officers give this more of a story approach rather than an explanation of facts. Readers of this book will be taught the realities of being a bomb squad officer.

Gruelle, J. (1999). Raggedy Ann and Andy and the nice police officer. New York: Simon & Schuster. (Law Enforcement)


Raggedy Ann and Andy find a crying policeman. He tells them that he must arrest Mr. Hooligooly and that this is his first arrest. Raggedy Ann convinces him to talk to Mr. Hooligooly. The police officer is scared to do that but decides it would be a good idea. The policeman finds out that a mean magician, who tricked the officer, is after a magic cooking stick. After some magical adventures, the mean magician is captured. Later Raggedy Ann, Andy and the nice police officer make the magician apologize for trying to steal the magic stick and he is set free by the nice police officer.


Although these are classic children’s characters, the portrayal of the police officer is very negative. Instead of the officer helping Raggedy Ann and Andy, they were helping him solve his problems. The scared officer, out-of-shape, also needed Raggedy Ann and Andy to help him figure out what was going on, what the correct course of action should be, and how to get the magician to jail. Additionally, children might conclude that jail is just a place to cool off because all the magician had to do to get out of jail was apologize for what he did. A positive spin on a generally negative portrayal of police officers is that one might conclude that officers don’t really like arresting people and that officers are generally friendly people.

Hannum, D. (1993). A visit to the police station. Chicago: Regensteiner Publishing, Inc. (Total Responsibilities)


This book chronicles an elementary class’ visit to the Evanston, Illinois, police station. The tour guide, Officer Briggs, shows the children the communication center, a transport vehicle and the prisoner dock; then it’s on to the squad car. Since the lights and sirens interest children, the officer allows them to sit behind the wheel. The children see the shooting range, jail cells, officers’ exercise room, and the booking room where they learn about fingerprints and mugshots. The tourists also meet Officer Friendly, a puppet used when officers visit elementary schools to teach children about the law. The children are taught the importance of registering their bicycles and receive a bicycle license. At the end of the tour, the children receive a special police badge.


This book appears to adequately represent a police department from a child’s perspective. The children are taken on a tour by a police officer and are provided opportunities for hands-on experience. The book contains a great deal of information with numerous pictures on every page so the children are able to associate the words with the pictures. Readers would have a positive view of the police from this story. Although the job of the police officer is described as tedious, responsible, and fun, Officer Briggs tells the children how rewarding the job is. This would be a good book for children to read, particularly right before they visit the police station in their community.

Jackson, D. (1996). The bone detectives. Boston: Little, Brown & Company. (Law Enforcement)


Forensics, the combination of modern medicine and policing, is the topic of this book, presented through an investigation conducted by Dr. Charney, one of 170 bone identification specialists in the U.S. With only 40 bones recovered (out of 200 in a normal body), Dr. Charney is to identify a body. Because there are only three types of skulls (Caucasian, Negroid and Mongoloid), Dr. Charney determines the skull is that of Mongoloid. Then, he examines the size and shape of the pubic bone and determines the victim is female. After determining race and sex, he uses the collarbone to determine the female is of average build and in her mid-twenties. This information, along with additional evidence, is then used to convict the woman’s husband of murder.


The medical field plays a large role in policing. This book shows how the medical profession and police personnel work together to solve crimes. Even though police may have only one strand of hair, with the help of the medical profession, they are able to identify victims and suspects. Without people like Dr. Charney, police would not be able to identify unknown bodies or their remains. The discussion is easy to follow and is presented in an interesting and realistic manner. Books like these may interest youngsters in the field of forensics and, hopefully, encourage them to become bone specialists.

Kallen, S. (1997). The police station. Edina, MN: Abdo & Daughters. (Law Enforcement)


This book describes some of the things that children would expect to see if they were to actually visit a police station. It briefly describes the officer’s tools and his/her job, and discusses the different areas of the police station such as the dispatch room, and the police lab.


Although the police station is the focus of this book, the responsibilities of the police officer doing different jobs throughout the police station are presented. It also briefly discusses the process a criminal would experience if brought to the police station. This book is geared toward the younger child; therefore, it portrays a very light-hearted, positive image of the police station.

Kunhardt, E. (1995). I’m going to be a police officer. New York: Scholastic Inc. (Total Responsibilities)


The beginning of the story shows Father putting on his bulletproof vest, his holster, handcuffs, and other things that officers carry. Michelle and David visit the police station, get fingerprinted, and watch the daily routine at the police station. When the children leave, the book follows Dad’s daily policing routine. He patrols the town on foot, and in his car, retrieves a lost dog, serves as a crossing guard, calls an ambulance, and, checks buildings for locked doors when he is on night patrol. He also encounters other officers as they are marking the tires of parked cars, and watches an officer check oxygen equipment in her car.


The story is told from Michelle’s perspective about her father who is a police officer. It follows him about in his daily activities, which involve community policing. By telling the story from a child’s perspective, it connotes the image of the police officer as a family man. This book portrays the image of a positive, friendly police officer who the community can trust since they know him as their community’s protector.

Pellowski, M. J. (1990). What’s it like to be a…police officer. Mahwah: NJ: Troll Associates. (Total Responsibilities)


Sandy and her father arrive at the police station, after Sandy’s bike is stolen. While her father is filling out paperwork, Sandy asks the Sergeant about policing and becoming a police officer. The sergeant tells Sandy that police officers protect people and their belongings as well as enforce laws. He tells Sandy about the exams, the Police Academy, and the training sessions on first-aid, safety, self-defense, police behavior, and on the proper use of equipment. He explains that police officers have different roles and responsibilities like protecting neighborhoods, patrolling highways, working in labs, working with young people, and directing traffic.


While Sergeant Conway aids Sandy in locating her missing bicycle, he provides insight as to what the police do and how they help people. Readers learn how the police are organized and the different roles of the various police officers. The view of the police is quite positive because Sergeant Conway willingly explains to Sandy what is required to become a police officer. This book teaches children that police officers will listen to them, protect them, and help them. The only negative aspect of this story is that it might give children a false sense of what the police are capable of accomplishing. Sandy is lucky to have her bicycle back; not all children are that lucky. Police do their best to help, but they are not always successful.

Rathmann, P. (1995). Officer Buckle and Gloria. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. (Public Service)


Officer Buckle travels between schools presenting safety tips to children. However, his presentations lead to boredom and inattentiveness. The Napville police department purchases a police dog named Gloria to help with the presentations. Instead of being bored and sleepy, the children watch and listen. Unbeknownst to Officer Buckle, Gloria is demonstrating safety tips. One day while viewing himself on television, Officer Buckle notices his listeners are more interested in watching Gloria perform, so he quit going to schools. Gloria continues, giving the presentations alone. She notices that things aren’t the same. After receiving mail requesting he return, Officer Buckle and Gloria reunite. They realize that together they can make a difference, which leads to the last safety tip: stick with your buddy!


The image of police officers is portrayed both positively and negatively in this book. Readers may view police as dull and boring. Additionally, readers may not develop an accurate portrayal of what a police officer’s day is like or what a police dog is trained to do. Officer Buckle’s only job seems to be giving speeches while Gloria’s only job is to serve as a stage prop. One may also perceive Officer Buckle as self-centered, considering that he quit giving safety speeches because Gloria was getting more attention. On the positive side, today’s police officers are not just crime solvers. Public relations is actually the job that most officers do on a daily basis. Giving safety speeches is Officer Buckle’s service to the community. Children are likely to develop a positive image of police officers as nice, caring individuals who enjoy helping people, including children. In addition to the many safety tips provided, a subtle message (when working as a team one can accomplish so much more) is woven through the story as the plot.

Ready, D. (1997). Community helpers: Police officers. Mankato, MN: Bridgestone Books. (Total Responsibilities)


This non-fiction children’s book is part of a series entitled “Community Helpers.” This book explains how police officers keep their community safe, and protect people and property from criminals. Topics covered include the role of police, the clothes they wear, the tools they use, the kind of automobiles they drive, the schooling required, the assistance officers receive, and the people they help. The duties of support personnel (dispatcher, photographers, and crime lab personnel) are also described. A glossary with words such as community, crime, detective, investigate, and law is provided.



Children who read this book should develop a positive perception of the policing profession. This book portrays officers as important members of a community whose job is to be available to assist those in need. It accurately explains the work and training necessary to become an officer and describes the life of a police officer, including pictures of police officers at work and their equipment. The book spans the process of becoming a police officer from the initial training at the police academy to an overview of what they do after they become a police officer. At the end of the book is a page with definitions of difficult words. Readers will also enjoy the section that explains the process of taking fingerprints, and provides step-by-step instructions to take their own fingerprint samples.

Ring, E. (1994). Patrol dogs: Keeping the peace. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press. (Law Enforcement)


This book is about police dogs and how they work on the police force. It provides detailed descriptions of what kind of dogs become patrol dogs, the type of work they do, the intensive training regime involving both the dog and trainer, the relationship between the dog and its partner, and, finally, their usefulness as crime fighters. Once they’ve successfully completed their training, the dogs are certified as patrol dogs and are ready to work. Around the age of ten or twelve, the dogs trade in their badges for civilian tags. The author also included stories about some instances where dogs were used. The stories brought to life the magnificent jobs that the dogs perform and how heroic they really can be.


This is an excellent book for young children to read to become familiar with what police dogs do, since some children are not aware that the police dogs are, indeed, police officers. Not only does the book highlight the training required for dogs to become police service dogs and the jobs they undertake once they are a part of the force, it also discusses the history behind dogs and policing. The author reassures readers that these dogs aren’t mean and vicious creatures; they are normally friendly dogs who, when given a command, can chase, apprehend, and disarm a criminal. A positive image of the police, both in the pictures and their relationships with their dogs, emerges from the book.

Ring, E. (1993). Detector dogs: Hot on the scent. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press. (Law Enforcement)


Police dogs (detector dogs) are the subject of this children’s book. A dog’s keen sense of smell, which is a million or more times better than a human’s, is described. Ring discusses the types of dogs suited for police work and the characteristics needed for them to be successful. Readers will learn about the dogs’ schooling or training which leads them to become specialists/detectives in one of four areas: Narcotics-detecting, bomb-detecting, accelerant-detecting, and body-detecting. Daily chores of police dogs include: patrolling roads, protecting people, tracking people, searching buildings, and controlling crowds. The book also discusses jobs outside of the law enforcement profession for which these dogs can be trained.


Although dogs are the subject of this book, they, too, are considered K-9 police officers. This book is a very good resource for children. The author provides humorous stories about the dogs, as well as how officers in police departments, U.S. Customs, and the Department of Agriculture use the dogs in their every day jobs. This book includes some statistical information that is easy for young readers to understand, such as the number of working detector dogs and how much contraband the dogs have uncovered.

Scarry, R. (1997). Sergeant Murphy’s busy day. New York: J.B. Communications. (Total Responsibilities)


This children’s book details a day in the life of Sergeant Murphy, a police officer. His day starts with a call from the police station. Then he gets up and cooks breakfast for the family. He drives his daughter to school on his motorcycle. He is then off to his busy day at work. After he clears up a traffic jam, he receives a call from a boy at the supermarket who has become separated from his mother. Sergeant Murphy rushes to the supermarket, solves the problem and then leaves to go to the school to give a traffic safety lesson. After that, he coaches the soccer team. When practice is over, he picks up his daughter at school. When they arrive home, there is a cake for Sergeant Murphy from the mother of the boy involved in the supermarket incident.


A police officer was the main character in this book. This book targets young children and tries to show them that police officers live ordinary lives when they are not at work. This book gives readers a positive view of police officers. The book shows and tells how hard their job is and that they are constantly helping people that are in need. This book has a lot of pictures of children interacting with the police officer, which suggests to young readers that it is good to talk to police officers and that they are nice people. The author is trying to convey that police officers are just like any other person except that their job is to help people when they have problems.

Winkleman, K. (1996). Police patrol. New York: Walker and Company. (Law Enforcement)


This book is a non-fiction account of the roles and responsibilities of police officers as well as procedures that police officers follow. Elaborate diagrams depicting various aspects of a police station and a police officer are included. The author explains the types of vehicles used by officers and describes the types of uniforms, including all the equipment normally carried by a police officer. The jobs of specialty officers such as correctional guards, detectives, mounted police, etc. are briefly described, often accompanied by a helpful illustration. Included are descriptions of procedures used by the police in arresting and booking a suspect, and investigating a crime scene. The different ways a person can serve his/her sentence are also described. A broad scope of police life, duties, and procedures are covered in this book as were interesting facts such as the reason people refer to the police as “cops” is because their badges were originally made of copper.


This is an excellent introductory book which employs humorous, comic-book like illustrations to assist in conveying information. Although children might be overwhelmed with the wealth of information the book provides, they should develop a positive image of police officers and the jobs they do. Readers should also begin to understand the complexity of law enforcement. The author clearly states that an officer’s main duty is to protect and serve the public and that officers fire their guns only as a last resort. She adds that a source of pride for police officers is to retire without ever having to fire their gun in the line of duty.