Meet Mr. Hug-a-Bear, the latest in police equipment.

He's a homemade, hand-crafted teddy bear, whose sole purpose in life is to bring comfort to a child experiencing a moment of tragedy or trauma.About 100 of them were donated Wednesday to the Salt Lake Police Department, which is promptly deploying the smiling creatures in the trunks of patrol cars, right next to the shotguns and riot helmets.

"I think it's the greatest thing to happen for a long time," said Maj. Ed Johnson. "The officers are enthusiastic about it. Our patrol captain went down with 13 of them to show his people and he came back empty handed."

The bears were donated by the Salt Lake chapter of the Utah Council of Telephone Pioneers of America, a national organization of retired telephone workers active in community service. The chapter plans to keep the department with a reserve of "hug-a-bears" to replace those given to traumatized children.

"We believe there is no better way to serve the communities we live in than by providing a service that may help a small child cope," said Melba Millard, who oversees the project.

Millard said 12 volunteer seamstresses have been making the bears, each of which takes about an hour to create. The club provides the pattern, the stuffing and the facial features, while the volunteers donate scrap cloth to the project. Thus, each bear is unique. Some are plaid, some striped, some polka-dotted.

The program is patterned after a similar undertaking in Seattle, Wash., where police found that some children, fearing to talk to a police officer, would open up to the bear, said Jim Sorrels, of the telephone club.