Stonington Police Reading.JPG

A new Stonington Police Department program called “SPD Storytime” features videos of members of the department reading their favorite children’s books. Above, Officer Kristy Murray reads “Knock, Knock,” one of her daughter’s favorite books.

STONINGTON — Officer Kristy Murray can now add another skill to her resume: online storyteller.

Murray, a veteran officer with the Stonington Police Department, took to the digital realm on Monday evening on YouTube as the anchor guest for the new series, "SPD Storytime." The program, which will air a new episode at 5 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, will feature officers, department staff and chaplains reading some of their favorite children’s books.

“It was a concept that I had seen used in other communities, but there was nothing like this in Stonington,” said Officer Theresa Hersh, who developed the program. “The officers really took to it … some even brought in their own books and have really shown in interest in building on this opportunity.”

The pilot episode featured Murray telling one of her daughter’s favorite stories, “Knock, Knock” by Tammi Sauer. The video was shot on an iPhone 10 using a gimbal, a portable, lightweight video stabilizer that Hersh recently received for her birthday, with a decorative Paw Patrol-themed shower curtain as a background.

Hersh, who also serves as the assistant chief for the Stonington Borough Fire Department and as president of the Stonington Volunteer Ambulance Corps, said it was the first time she’s had a real chance to use her new equipment, and she was happy to be able to put it to good use.

“It was a chance to have some fun and do something that could potentially benefit the children in our community at the same time,” she said.

Police Capt. Todd Olson said Hersh brought the idea to the department’s leadership team, and the concept was met with open arms. Hersh has been temporarily assigned as the COVID-19 as the COVID-19 community outreach officer, Olson said, and has thrived in a role as a liaison to the public during the crisis.

In addition to producing the YouTube program — an effort that Olson said fellow officers have really taken to, leading to some much-needed excitement for the first responders during these challenging times — Hersh has also coordinated numerous birthday and other celebration parades and social-distancing events, as well as working alongside Stonington Human Services on a variety of community-based programs.

“She’s really done a terrific job in that role, and it’s been an asset for the department,” Olson said.

Both Olson and Hersh said the program serves several purposes. For children and families, it’s a chance to do something different and enjoy some local interaction during social distancing. For the department, it’s a chance to gain some positive exposure and put the time gained by not needing to staff spring events and programs to good use.

Olson said it’s just one of many ways the department is trying to help the community come together during the crisis.

“In these trying times, it is so important for everyone to be able to maintain a sense of normalcy and purpose,” he said. “It’s about a lot more than just stopping bad guys, and this is just one of the ways the agency is seeking to provide the best service we can.”

Hersh said she has already recorded 20 sessions, which include appearances from a wide range of department staff, from supervisors and patrol officers to chaplains and maintenance services employees.

The SPD Storytime series can be found on the Stonington Police Department YouTube channel at youtube.com/channel/UCS0OAmpEnHdpUkI2LPbTRSQ/featured?disable_polymer=1. The program will continue for several more weeks and the department will expand upon the efforts as time allows, Hersh said.

“Officers carry a certain image, but we are all still human and we serve because we want to help. We’re not just here to fight crime, but to make the community a better place and the officers are embracing that,” she said.

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