Ten elementary schools across New Bedford took part in "High-Five Friday" this morning, with off-duty police officers visiting the schools to give high-fives and have conversations with students.

The program had drawn controversy in Northampton, where the program was canceled because opponents felt it made some students who might be illegal immigrants or had bad experiences with law enforcement feel uncomfortable.

New Bedford School Department spokesperson Jonathan Carvalho tells WBSM's Barry Richard he didn't hear of any issues in New Bedford this morning, and that he feels the city's students can benefit from the program.

"I think it's really important for kids to see (police officers) in a positive light, because those are the people in the community that they need to have some trust in, and know that they can go to when they have a problem," Carvalho said.

Carvalho says New Bedford is a "different demographic" than Northampton, but that he does understand some students might have trepidation about encountering a police officer. But he also feels this program can help them get over that trepidation.

"It's fairly important for us for our kids to have a good experience with the police, just as they have with teachers, firemen or anyone else in the community," he said.

Carvalho said most of the time, students are seeing a police officer in an emergency situation, so "it's nice to see them in a casual, laid-back environment where they are greeting kids and talking to kids."

"It was just a really positive experience, and the kids got a kick out of it and were coming back for their third and fourth high-fives by the time I left," he said.

Other school systems in the area, such as Wareham and Freetown-Lakeville, also took part in "High-Five Friday." Lakeville Police even visited Apponequet High School.

New Bedford Police stuck to just the elementary level, because of the amount of personnel available and how many schools there were to cover. Carvalho said they could expand the program in the future, but noted the city's middle schools and New Bedford High School already have School Resource Officers who are very familiar to the students in those schools.

"Those SROs are probably greeting kids every day, maybe with a high-five or maybe with a slap on the back," he said. "They have a great relationship with our students and are very much a fabric of those schools."

Carvalho said he'd like to see more "High-Five Fridays" in the future, whether it be something done annually or even monthly.

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