Jairius Diaz, 6, walked up to Schenectady Police Officer Nolan Carroll in Central Park Saturday afternoon, and Carroll knelt down and handed Diaz a sticker. Carroll then began showing Diaz all the parts of his uniform.
Carroll was one of several officers from the department that came out for a small community festival held in the park by the Schenectady chapter of the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.
“I feel that this is a great opportunity for the community to come together and get to know the officers and know that they’re here for the community,” said O. Diaz, Jairius’s grandma.
Jairius, who has anxiety, watched intently as Carroll showed him everything he carries: his badge, his vest, his notebooks and many of the other gadgets.
“He always wanted to meet a cop in real life,” his grandma said.
She said she hopes the department will do this every year.
The NAACP reached out to the police and fire departments about having the event, according to Police Chief Eric Clifford.
“I felt it was important for the community to have the opportunity to reach out to all departments,” said Justin Chaires, the second vice president of the NAACP.
Chaires worked on the police reform plan committee and said community engagement helps kids see the officers in a more positive and personal light. He said he was a little nervous before the event began but then he watched a little girl go up to a firefighter and say she wanted to be a firefighter. The firefighter in turn told the girl she definitely could be one.
Chaires said it’s great that people in the community can see, “that people that look like them can be in the department.”
That’s what getting out there in the community is all about, Clifford said.
Clifford said that while the police reform plan indicates that people want them out in the community more, they are also cognizant that residents want to plan the events the police come to.
Clifford said they’ve reached out to various organizations to see if they want to host events the department could be a part of.
“We’d like to do one a month, that’s the goal,” Clifford said.
However, he said it also takes time to plan events. But, he said he’s trying to find other ways for the officers to be more present in the community, like going to parks and schools.
SUNY Schenectady County Community College student Amira Stevens said she’s watched videos of officers interacting with kids in positive ways.
“That warms my heart,” she said.
For Stevens, Saturday’s event felt more like a family cookout and she said that made people feel less intimidated to approach officers and firefighters.
“I feel like it’s necessary to build the trust between the civilians and the department,” she said.
Hamin Shabazz, the college’s dean of Business, Criminal Justice and Law, also loved the event because it showed officers in a different light. It showed their human side, he said.
“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” Shabazz said. “I think it’s exactly what the fire department, the police department and community needs. It puts all of those three areas in a more personal environment outside of the usual ways they normally meet.”
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Categories: Schenectady County