Six police chiefs in southern Wake County have teamed up with residents of their respective communities to create a video that aims to counteract possible ill feelings toward law enforcement officers.
The minute-long public service announcement stresses the importance of trust, transparency and community following the unrest that erupted after police shootings in places such as Ferguson, Mo. and Charlotte, as well as emerging concerns about the role of police in enforcing immigration laws. It pairs police chiefs and a diverse group of civilians – male and female, black and white, Asian and Hispanic, Muslim and Christian who live in the six towns: Apex, Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Garner, Holly Springs and Morrisville.
It begins with Apex Police Chief John Letteney and Asif Ansari, the secretary of media and outreach with the Apex Mosque, standing together in front of a lake at Crowder Park on a sunny December day.
“Law enforcement leaders here in the southwestern part of Wake County are keenly aware of the issues that have been occurring throughout the nation,” Letteney begins.
“These issues affect law enforcement’s relationship with the communities they serve,” Ansari said, completing the sentence.
Cary Police Chief Tony Godwin is paired with Lizette Watko, founder of Diamante, a non-profit agency that promotes Latino and Hispanic culture and heritage in North Carolina. Godwin says the idea for the video came after he and his colleagues attended the state’s annual chief of police conference last year and saw a similar video created by local police departments and the sheriff’s office in New Hanover County.
“We thought the concept was very appealing,” Godwin said. “We wanted to know, ‘How can we make it our own?’ ”
Godwin said part of the goal for the public service video is to try to “really have an effect on the negative perceptions about law enforcement in the last several years.”
“I’m not speaking about our communities, but generally across the nation,” he said. “We wanted to show what we are about and what we stand for. We’re all in this together, and we’re here to serve everybody in the community, no matter which one you work in, or which one you live in.”
Fuquay-Varina chief Laura Fahnestock said the commanders wanted to provide their communities with an awareness of the communication and partnerships that exist among law enforcement in southern Wake County.
“We, along with our families, friends, neighbors, guests and residents, move through our towns to work, play, shop and live,” she said. “It was a consensus among each chief to show that we care and want to improve the quality of life for everyone and it is not limited by our jurisdictional boundaries.”
The police chiefs released their video to the public this week. Godwin said the police departments will rely on social media to reach a broader audience.
“Facebook, Twitter, it’ll be shown at community events,” Godwin said. “There’s been talk of showing it at movie theaters before the previews. You can reach a lot of folks that way. A lot of people like going to the movies.”