“We get to hang out:” MPD officers have fun with kids at the Milwaukee County Zoo

MILWAUKEE -- There is plenty to look at when you visit the Milwaukee County Zoo. Tuesday, June 20th featured a rare sight indeed!

“When you see them for the first time, it's very scary!" Ariel Pantaleon said.

MPD officers have fun with kids at the Milwaukee County Zoo

The Greenfield Middle School student could've been talking about a tiger, a cheetah or one of the other exotic animals at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Instead, he was referring to a Milwaukee police officer.

“It’s actually pretty cool," said Pantaleon. "Because we see them mostly doing crime fighting and stuff, but now we get to hang out, ask them questions.”

Birds of a different feather were flocking together on Tuesday, as officers from MPD's Districts Two and Five toured the zoo with about 30 students from the north and south sides of Milwaukee.

Milwaukee County Zoo

MPD officers have fun with kids at the Milwaukee County Zoo

“The majority of the time is always a negative situation where we encounter these kids, but this time, we just want to show them what we’re really like," said Jose Acevedo, a community liaison officer with District Two.

“They’re cool," said Naomi Martin, a sophomore at Rufus King High School. "I thought they were going to be mean, but they’re cool to me.”

The excursion was thanks to a partnership between the Milwaukee police and organizations like Lighthouse Youth Center and Journey House.

MPD officers have fun with kids at the Milwaukee County Zoo

“They get to see cops in a positive light," said Christina Felski, an after-school programming director at Journey House. "Because most of the time when you call 9-1-1, cops show up. There’s negative – there’s bad energy. There’s bad things happening.”

“Building relationships, so that maybe we can start decreasing some of the images that our youth are seeing [of] law enforcement," said Cherise Myers, Journey House director of community partnerships.

MPD officers have fun with kids at the Milwaukee County Zoo

This was the first event of its kind, but it won't be the last. Journey House plans on bringing officers to their location in July, to interact and do activities with the kids.

MPD officers have fun with kids at the Milwaukee County Zoo

“It’s just a great opportunity to just engage with these kids. As you can tell, they’re pretty funny and they’re already hanging out having a good time with us, and this is what we’re all about," Acevedo said.

A tiger may not be able to change its stripes, but a relationship between cops and kids certainly can.