First Responders

5 Places Cops Are Going Above and Beyond To Engage Their Communities

June 13, 2021Joshua Skovlund
police and communities

Police from all around the country are reaching out and helping their communities. It isn’t the first time police have engaged the community in a positive way, and it won’t be the last. Photos courtesy of the Chicago Police Department, Dallas Police Department, Napa County Sheriff’s Office, and the New York Police Department. Composite image by Joshua Skovlund/Coffee or Die Magazine.

According to a report from the US Department of Justice, police maintaining strong community engagement is critical to maintaining public safety and effective policing. 

“It is important for the police to be visible in their communities and know their residents. Many people do not interact with the police outside of enforcement contexts,” the report found. “This can result in people developing negative associations […] if the only contact they have ever had with police consisted of receiving a traffic citation or calling the police to report being the victim of a crime.”

Coffee or Die Magazine put together a list to show how police departments across the country are connecting with their communities outside of their typical duties. 

Birthday Drive-By

Napa, California

Napa County Sheriff’s Office personnel, Napa Police Department officers, and many other first responders did a drive-by for Xavier Pequeno for his 8th birthday Wednesday. In video from the event, Pequeno laughs and waves with excitement as the first responder vehicles drive past with lights flashing, some sounding off their horns and sirens.

Hip-Hop Tuesdays

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago Police Officer William Martinez, the 15th District youth officer, facilitates the Hip-Hop Tuesday program every Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Cops mentor kids with homework, and as long as the kids finish, they then get access to basketball, video games, and various other activities. It’s a fun way to encourage kids to complete their homework after school.

Toy Drive

Dallas, Texas

Officers from the Dallas Police Department’s Southwest Patrol Division’s Neighborhood Policing Unit stopped by MD Kids Pediatrics in Oak Cliff, Texas, with donated toys to distribute. A department blog post said officers are seen as “tough guys,” but in the end they are people doing their best to help and keep the public safe.  

“You just saw it immediately in their eyes, if they were feeling a little bit under the weather, for a split second they forgot and just smiled,” Senior Cpl. Lozano said. “I don’t have children of my own, but I know I hate shots just as much as the next kid.”

The officers plan to visit three more locations in the next two weeks. 

King’s Court Basketball

New York, New York

Members of the New York City Police Department, along with local and federal partners, took $4 million in seized assets from law enforcement operations and used it to revitalize 15 basketball courts throughout the city. King’s Court, the basketball court outside of a public housing development, is the third to be updated by the community task force. 

“This is going to be a great place for our kids to play, kids to meet,” said NYPD Housing Bureau Chief David Barrere. “[Everyone involved sees] it as a bridge, a bridge to a brighter future. So I am happy that we were able to make this happen, cops and community working together.”

“I want to make sure that everybody understands exactly how this happened and how this is going to happen in 15 basketball courts across the city,” said NYPD Deputy Commissioner Chauncey Parker. “By working with our federal partners, the NYPD took money that was seized from drug dealers, money launderers, people harming these communities across the city, which normally goes into more enforcement. Which is really important. But taking a lot of that money, millions of dollars and saying you know, we got to reinvest that into the places, in the communities that suffer the most.”

Block Party

Atlanta, Georgia

The Atlanta Police Athletic League put on a summer block party Wednesday for youth in the city as a kickoff to a summer camp the PAL runs. Amy’s House, a local nonprofit, partnered with the PAL to donate and supply vendors for the party.

Sgt. James Flinders, a spokesman for PAL, told Coffee or Die Magazine that they typically serve 60 to 70 youth throughout the course of the seven-week summer camp. He said the PAL is a full-time outreach organization within the Atlanta Police Department.

Drum Circle

Chicago, Illinois

You typically see Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown at the helm of press conferences discussing serious matters with the public. On May 31, Brown saw a drum circle and asked to join in on the fun.

Read Next: Tennessee Recruiters Rush To Help After Traffic Wreck and, of Course, Recruit a Driver’s Son

Joshua Skovlund
Joshua Skovlund

Joshua Skovlund has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis that followed the death of George Floyd. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he earned his CrossFit Level 1 certificate and worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. He went on to work in paramedicine for more than five years, much of that time in the North Minneapolis area, before transitioning to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children. His creative outlets include Skovlund Photography and Concentrated Emotion, where he publishes poetry focused on his life experiences.

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