It’s news to no one that police departments around the country have struggled to gain the full trust of the communities they serve. Recent police-involved shootings have led people to question how much of an overreach police officers are taking to show some muscle behind their badges.
But police departments aren’t taking the criticism quietly. There has been a lot of introspection and police – certainly in our local areas – have seen the need to interject themselves back into the community in more non-threatening ways.
In some cases, police departments are doing that by continuing some longstanding programs designed to give the public a different perspective of their police departments.
In both Knightdale and Zebulon, police officers have raised money and taken children and families Christmas shopping through a program called Shop with a Cop. That’s no small undertaking considering the time of year we’re in. Some police officers have taken time out of their day to thank the donors who supported their effort.
Every time a police officer does something like this, they become more human to the people they interact with. Yes, they may still be wearing the badge and they may still have a gun on their hip, but they aren’t writing a ticket and they aren’t taking someone to jail.
Instead they are acting just like any other mom or dad out there. And, in all actuality, that’s what they are: moms and dads just like any other mom or dad. They want children to be happy. They want to enjoy the pleasure of giving to another person without the expectation of something in return.
They also want those children and their families to understand that police, in general, aren’t bad people. They just have a job that puts them in unpleasant situations.
The process of engendering trust within the community is, of course, much more involved than simply taking children out to buy Christmas gifts. Police have to show their community through their law enforcement activities that they apply the law equally in all cases and that they are not prone to overreacting when a situation deteriorates.
We are fortunate in eastern Wake County that there have been no incidents that have created national headlines like those coming from Charleston, S.C., Minnesota or Louisiana. Our communities don’t want to become part of that litany of headlines. Neither do our police departments.
Interacting with the community through programs like Shop with a Cop will go a long way toward building the kind of trust we need so that if an incident does arise, our communities can trust that the situations will be handled properly from that point on.