CANAL FULTON: As Patrolman Dennis Muntean makes his way through Northwest Local Schools, he has a new reward available to hand out to courteous students — a cop trading card.

The card has a photo of Muntean, who serves as school resource officer, on the front and various facts on the back, like the one noting that the officer’s favorite things to do are spending time with his family and bass fishing.

“I think they are really cool,” fifth-grader Landon Kieffer, 11, said after being handed his first card, which is similar to a baseball card.

Canal Fulton is the latest law enforcement agency to employ the trading cards, believing they are a great way to connect and improve relationships with youths — and even adults — in the community.

Massillon, Canton and Summit County also are using them. In a twist, Summit County created cards not for its deputies but for K-9s Sasha and Anna.

The cards are viewed as a way to combat negative images of law enforcement, especially for children who may see officers engaged in violent and intense situations on the news or in TV programs.

“Trading cards allow children to interact with the police in a positive fashion, reinforcing what they are taught at home, with the police being their friend and someone they can approach for help,” Canal Fulton Police Chief Douglas Swartz said. “Plus, it’s just fun for everyone involved. Kids feel like they were given something really special and the officers walk away feeling like they made a difference in a young person’s world that day.”

Not new

Police trading cards aren’t new. They’ve been around for decades. They aren’t even new in Canal Fulton, where DARE officers handed out cards in 1995.

But their popularity has been resurrected locally by Massillon police, which produced cards for about 40 officers last year.

“It was very well received,” Massillon Police Chief Keith Moser said. “And not only the kids, but some of the adults got into it.”

There are benefits for the officers involved, too. Some officers are reserved and the cards force them to be more social and interact with the public.

Moser, who also has a trading card, admitted he’s more on the reserved side.

“People come up to me and ask for it,” he said. “It gets me out there a little more.”

Moser said he can see bringing them back every three to five years so it remains fresh.

As for the most sought-after Massillon card? The chief believes it’s Inca, the police K-9.

Cliff Franks, a professional photographer who runs 77Logo.com, which produces the cards in Canal Fulton, said they are worthwhile because they show the “human side of a guy who might otherwise just be giving you a ticket. We love being a part of them.”

Canal Fulton cards

In Canal Fulton, there are nine different cards, with each officer getting 500 of his or her own to pass out.

The Stark County city, just like Massillon, received donations to pay for the program so no taxpayer money was used. The cost per officer is $125 for 500 cards.

Lana Storesina, 11, a fifth-grader at W.S. Stinson Elementary in Canal Fulton, did feel special when Muntean gave her his card. She now has two Muntean cards, as she received now-retired Massillon Police Sgt. Brian Muntean’s card while attending a car show in Massillon.

She said her goal is to collect all of the Canal Fulton police cards.

Franny Buell, the owner of Peace, Love & Little Donuts in Canal Fulton, donated money to help produce the cards. She said it was a worthwhile investment.

“We have the best police force,” she said. “They do a great job in our little community on a personal level and are always there when you need them.”

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.