Stop scaring kids with threat of prison, police tell parents in divisive poster campaign (VIDEO)

A UK police poster campaign asking parents not to use the police to scare children into behaving well has sparked a debate on social media, with some commentators calling it ‘offensive’ and ‘misleading’.

Durham Constabulary launched the poster last Friday. It has already been viewed 3.5 million times on Facebook.

The police force want parents to encourage their children to turn to the police if they need help, rather than using the threat of cops or prison as a way to scare kids into good behavior.

However some Facebook users have criticized the campaign, with postings like: “You earn Respect! Not demand it.

Durham police’s poster features a smiling cop with the text: “Please don’t tell your children that we will take them off to jail if they are bad. We want them to run to us if they are scared… NOT be scared of US.

The poster has been ‘liked’ more than 40,000 times and has received 62,540 shares.

A spokesman for the constabulary said: “Children should be taught from an early age that if they feel they are in danger and they need help, they can approach an officer who will reassure them.”

Public opinion on Facebook was divided, with many criticizing the poster for being misleading.

Colin Henderson wrote: “I find this poster offensive and typical of the police. I will always teach my children to be extremely wary of the police. They are a necessary but not necessarily good. I still have nightmares of the miners’ strike. They have not changed and will never change. Unless there’s a major need for you to talk to them then avoid them like the plague.”

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Asked by another user why he found the poster offensive, Colin replied: “It [is] offensive because it gives a false sense of security, with a smiling copper. It’s not the real image of the police. It never has been and never will be.

Brett Bowedrey was similarly disenchanted by the campaign, commentating that police should stop telling children off for cycling on the pavement.

Not every copper is smiling and friendly, he added.

A Facebook user going by the name Jake Bam Bam Withers echoed the sentiment: “Well tell some the officers not to be so cocky and intimidating then. There are some brilliant policemen out there but I’m sorry to say a good portion of them have very arrogant attitudes.

One user, Collette Elvins, didn’t criticize the poster directly but instead attacked the budget cuts police have faced under the government’s austerity policies.

She wrote: “[Shame] the Tories have hacked into police funding thus meaning we have no police out there to help us !!!

A Parliamentary report published last October found that a “significant” proportion of children have a profound lack of trust in the police.

The report found that arrests of under-18s had fallen by 59 percent over a period of five years, with 129,274 in England and Wales in 2013.

MPs based their findings on a 2010 survey of 3,500 children by Sussex police, which found younger children who had less contact with the police viewed them more positively than older children who had had more contact.