Manchester students join police in scavenger hunt

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Pittsburgh police officers and students at Manchester Academic Charter School collaborated for a scavenger hunt Thursday at a North Side park.

Dennis Henderson, 39, a social studies and history teacher at the school, started planning the outing, aimed at changing students' views of police, in March.

Mr. Henderson was charged last year by Pittsburgh police with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and obstruction of highways -- all of which the Allegheny County district attorney's office later withdrew -- and later filed a complaint accusing the officer who arrested him of violating several bureau policies.

Manchester students are familiar with the case, Mr. Henderson said, and some have expressed general fear or mistrust of police.

"We wanted to find some way to change and break up that bias they have," he said.

Police officers from the city's Zone 1 station, some who stayed over from night shifts, accompanied groups of about 90 students in grades 5 through 8 on two scavenger hunts organized by Pittsburgh nonprofit Venture Outdoors.

Mr. Henderson promised "bonus points" to students who asked questions of the police officers, such as where they went to high school and whether they have children.

Students also were invited to meet members of the city's bomb squad, who displayed their gear on tables near the lawn.

Asked what she learned from the experience, 12-year-old Samone Brosier, from the South Side, said matter-of-factly: "Caterpillars are everywhere" -- then added that she enjoyed participating in the hunt alongside a police officer.

Officers, too, said the search was fun for the students and something they would consider helping with again.

"I think it was a good community-building activity," said Officer Richard Letz, who is on the bicycle patrol.

Zone 1 Cmdr. RaShall Brackney said she would love to repeat the effort with students from schools in other minority communities.

"This is a great opportunity to see that not every encounter with law enforcement has to be negative," Cmdr. Brackney said.

Molly Born: or 41-263-1944.

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