‘Sometimes good things happen’: Dover police officer plays catch with Manchester Square kids

Dover Police Department Officer Thomas Rivera tosses the football with kids while on patrol Thursday in the Manchester Square neighborhood. (Courtesy photo)

DOVER — The photos drew positive attention and spotlighted the mostly unreported friendly stops made on a typical shift.

While rolling through the Manchester Square neighborhood on routine patrol Thursday afternoon, Dover Police Officer Thomas Rivera pulled over, got out and approached two women on the street.

A mother with kids playing nearby immediately reacted with “looks like there’s a problem,” according to bystander Laura Ruth Roeske.

Turns out, the uniformed cop was just seeking some relaxation on an unseasonably warm winter day.

“The officer got out and simply said, ‘I just thought I could throw the ball around with the kids,’” Roeske recounted on a Facebook post that followed.

So that’s just what happened. The police officer played catch with the youngsters before getting back into his vehicle and moving on.

Initially, Officer Rivera noticed children tossing a football, continued to patrol and then returned to the scene.

“After checking the area, I drove back and spoke with the mother for a few minutes and asked if she minded me playing with the kids,” the officer said. “I spent about 10 minutes throwing the ball around and it was clear they were pretty excited about me being there.

“Truthfully, it was a nice break for me as well after what had been a pretty busy day at that point.”

Ms. Roeske posted a couple pictures of the interaction on Facebook, and drew 308 likes, 122 shares and seven comments within 16 hours.

“The mother asked if I could print these out for her too, to remind her kids that sometimes good things happen,” Ms. Roeske wrote online in a public post.

Ms. Roeske added the hashtags: #thesethingsneedtohappenmore, #giveourcommunitieswhattheyneed, #safety, #care, and #rolemodels.

The Dover Police Department learned of the photos and posted them on Facebook with a quick recap that prompted several nice compliments from citizens.

The attention was unexpected, but Dover PD spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman said officers routinely take time to connect with the public during a work day.

“This happens more often than is realized, but pictures of it don’t usually get posted on social media,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

“Our officers are committed to community policing and this is an example of what frequently happens when it comes to reaching out in one way or another.”

Officers don’t mind taking time away from investigations and arrests that often come on a typical day.

“It’s a nice little break but also an opportunity to make a difference in kids lives,” Cpl. Hoffman said. “They won’t ever forget the positive interaction they had with police during that moment, and might be more willing to interact, cooperate, communicate or ask for help down the road or even consider pursuing a career in law enforcement based on the positive role model they came in contact with.”

Officer injured during call

Later in the day, another officer-citizen interaction illustrated the dangerous nature of some community contacts — a Dover PD officer suffered a fractured finger and ruptured tendon on his left hand when responding to a loitering complaint Thursday night.

According to authorities, the officer was injured during the apprehension of a 35-year-old man in the Wawa parking lot at 290 S. DuPont Highway at 7:28 p.m. The confrontation came after a Taser shot had no affect on Mario Westbrook, Cpl. Hoffman said. Other arriving officers then assisted the officer in taking the man into custody, police said.

The patrol officer initially arrived to find a man, later identified as Mr. Westbrook, matching the description of the loitering complaint, police said. The man supposedly opted not to cooperate with police “and continued to walk away from the officer and then refused to provide his name or identification,” police said.

“As the officer attempted to detain (Mr.) Westbrook, he pulled away, taking a fighting stance.”

After the Taser was discharged, police said Mr. Westbrook removed backpacks he was wearing an a fight began.

Charges included disorderly conduct, first-degree assault of a law enforcement officer, third-degree trespass and felony resisting arrest with force.
Mr. Westbrook was committed to James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna in lieu of $21,200 secured bond.

The wounded officer was treated at a local hospital and his duty status was being evaluated Friday morning, police said.

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