ST. MATTHEWS, Ky. (WDRB) -- St. Matthews Police went on a pint-sized patrol Wednesday, giving kids court dates with a clown.

One of those kids was 4-year-old Riley Brooks, out on a roll with Mom on a hot summer day when out of nowhere a police officer stopped him right in his tracks.

"You know what?" asked St. Matthews Police officer Troy Armstrong. "I noticed you don't have a helmet on, and since you don't have one, I have one you can have." 

Just around the corner, sisters Maggie and Emma Lewis were also about to be apprehended.

"I'm going to have to pull up on them here," Armstrong said.

Moments later, Armstrong was grilling them.

"What I do want to ask you is, how come you do not have a helmet on?" Armstrong asked.

"I never really thought about wearing one because I feel like I'm a safe rider," Emma said. 

"Now why would someone who thinks they're safe need a helmet?" Armstrong asked. "Because you don't know when someone might not see you on a bicycle in their car, OK?"

Armstrong is on the first day of the St. Matthews Police Helmet Smart program. While on patrol, officers keep an eye out for kids on bikes. If they don't have a helmet, they hand them one for free.

Those who do, like 7-year-old Annalie Rodriguez, get a safety citation.

"It says you were out riding your bicycle with a helmet and being safe," Armstrong told Annalie.

"It was for something good, so I was pleased to see them enforcing good behaviors," said Annalie's mother, Diana Rodriguez.

Kids can take the ticket into any McDonald's Restaurant of Kentuckiana and get a free Happy Meal. The restaurant partnered with AAA East Central. 

"It all comes down to safety," said Lynda Lambert of AAA East Central. "A bicycle is a vehicle, and helmets greatly reduce the serious injuries in bicycle crashes."

Yet Kentucky has no law requiring them for kids. The measures repeatedly failed to pass through the legislature.

"I didn't think we were doing anything bad or illegal or anything," Emma said.

"How can you stay safe on your bike?" Armstrong asked Riley Brooks.

"Hold on tight," Riley replied.

"And you wear...?" Armstrong asked.

"A helmet," Riley said.

To officers like Armstrong, this is as much about safety as tackling a stigma or fear of police at a young age. 

"Any time we can have a positive interaction with kids, the better," he said.

Heritage Creek Police and LMPD's Eighth Division are also doing the helmet smart program, but they're only giving the safety citations, not free helmets.

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