Annual event shows police as ‘normal’ people
With easy access to news and some misinformation in terms of mainstream media and social media, it is all too easy to portray a group of people in a bad light without having a previous interaction of your own.
Even our local emergency personnel fall under the umbrella of this scrutiny, but one annual event is helping to relieve that pressure.
In recent years, police forces around the country have been the subject of the negativity, some of which has been undue. Individuals who were breaking the law or making bad choices interact with police during one of their worst moments. Their poor experiences get shared and people take that information to heart, and the story gets twisted a little more each time it is told.
We see it all too often. Even at a local level.
Police are seen as the bad guys in uniform, using the law to push their own agendas. Think of the last time you were driving down the road and passed a cop. Did you do a mental checklist? Seatbelt - check. Speed limit - check. Did I fix that tail light?
That’s an awful lot of negativity pointed at the men and women who patrol our streets with the goal of keeping us safe. We can’t speak for communities across the country, but here in Greene County we spend a lot of time working with our local law enforcement and it seems apparent they are doing their best with what little resources they have.
In an effort to break through that veil of negativity, Linton Police Chief Troy Jerrell has rallied several local police, fire and other emergency personnel to present the annual National Night Out event. The event is celebrated nationally, and our local community has embraced it.
This year’s event was hosted earlier this week, and it was -- as always -- an eye-opening experience. One of our reporters attended the event as just a spectator this year, leaving behind the camera, notebook and goal of tracking down a story, to experience it with two small children who have not had much interaction with police in their lifetime.
Local police, fire departments, EMS, Department of Corrections Officers, state law enforcement and others packed Linton’s Humphreys Park. While they were still in uniform, they were just normal people enjoying the company of the communities they serve.
One of the big components of National Night Out is each child is given a card at the registration booth. By having so many booths sign off on the card, the child is eligible for prizes at the end of the night. But, it offers so much more. The children and their families have to walk around to each booth. They receive excellent information about local businesses and organizations, but they are also put in a position to have a conversation with emergency personnel.
With each child that steps up to the booth, you could see Greene County police officer or firefighter fully engaging with our local youth, talking about anything from what their job is in the community to letting them sit in a patrol car to talking about everyday topics.
Jerrell explained previously he has the representatives from his department show up in full uniform, even though temperatures were nearing the 90-degree mark. It allows for the residents of Greene County to see the officers in the same way they would in any other situation.
While sometimes officers can seem unapproachable as they are on the job, it is important for them to allow the community to see them as what they really are -- members of our community. They live here. They go to church here. Their children go to school here. Their spouses work here. They are just people with a job to do.
This is just one of the many ways our local police are working to keep up with the communities they serve. We have worked with them to provide more information about what is happening in Greene County to our readers. We have a long way to go, but the more visible emergency personnel are to the community, the more trusted they can appear.
Local law enforcement have also taken to social media to up the ante on their interpersonal communication. As Bloomfield Town Marshal Kenneth Tharp once said, at this time people are much more likely to go to social media for answers or provide information than calling.
We are lucky here in Greene County.