The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department hosted a community outreach day on Saturday on the campus of Northside Baptist Church.
Building strong relationships and mutual trust between CMPD and the community it serves was top of mind for the police engagement team.
“We as community engagement decide that we’re going to come out and we’re going to be in those areas that the community needs us to be,” said Bruce Edward, CMPD community engagement officer. “Sometimes just being available and being in the space is what the community wants us to do.”
He said it’s increasingly important for the police to be visible in their communities and to know their residents.
The campus at Northside Baptist Church is near the Hidden Valley community and the partnership between the church and police has grown over the past year.
“We know the potential that is sitting right here in this area: the lives of the children and families that can be transformed,” said Veronica Washington, community outreach coordinator with Northside Baptist Church.
“Hidden Valley has a lot of challenges but it has a lot of opportunities,” Edwards said. “It’s important for our presence to be here so that the neighborhood can know that we care and we value them.”
In July 2020, Preston Gaines joined the CMPD cadet program and was the tallest in stature on the court, and his heart is just as big.
“I love doing stuff like this because we’re having a food drive with families who might not have enough to eat,” Gaines said. “I want to specifically help the youth. I want to see the people going up inside America, inside our society succeed because the children are our future.”
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Cadet Program provides qualified students actively enrolled in a local college an opportunity to work in a professional, law enforcement environment, while learning about and training for future employment as a CMPD officer.
There was a basketball and gaming tournament, and a carnival of resources including free food and clothing distribution.
Each basketball team comprised at least one CMPD officer, a CMPD cadet and a kid from the community.
The games were as intense as anything you’d see on ESPN, but the biggest goal scored was the value of the relationships being made between the players.
One of those players is Harding University High School student Jamari Smith, who has been part of the Police Athletic League since he was in second grade.
“It’s really good energy here,” Smith said. “It’s something positive, so I had to come.”
Interacting with the community sometimes presents special challenges to law enforcement officials. It can be especially difficult in the current state of the U.S.
“If we teach youth the right things, then as they grow up then they can teach the next generation the right things and then it’ll be a continuing cycle of good,” Gaines said.
It was a day when you could see the camaraderie on the faces of the players, the interaction of the volunteers, and the happiness of the kids playing video games alongside these community cops.
It was a win both on and off the courts.
“We have opened up our doors so we can break down the walls that are sometimes built between the police and the people,” Washington said.
If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.