Monday, August 26, 2002

Outreach lets police build trust




By Randy Tucker rtucker@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The last of six Cincinnati police-community outreach festivals, held Sunday at Laurel Park in the West End, offered glimpses of how police and citizens can work together in a positive way that fosters trust.

        But incidents such as the criminal investigation of Cincinnati's highest-ranking black police officer, Lt. Col. Ron Twitty, and the controversial deaths of two black men at police hands continue to raise racial issues, distrust and suspicion among some members of minority communities.

        The situation underscores the need for continued efforts to forge partnerships between police and citizens to overcome feelings of mistrust, said Louteen Jones, who attended the outreach festival at the park across the street from her John Street home.

        “With everything that's been going on here, a lot of people are afraid of the police,” Ms. Jones said. “But since I've been here, I've gotten to know a few of them (police officers), and they're human, too. They have feelings just like me, but most people don't get a chance to see that unless it's at a festival like this.”

        About a half-dozen Cincinnati police officers and a crowd of about 100 attended and were treated to free food, performances and music.

        Developing a rapport with kids is perhaps the biggest benefit, said Police Spc. Jason Voelkerding.

        “If we can influence them at an early age, and they can see we're human, maybe they'll be more inclined to come up to us for help, rather than be scared of us,” Spc. Voelkerding said.

       



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