BALTIMORE — You hang around any community safety meeting and it doesn’t take long for people to start bringing up “Officer Friendly”.
Many people say the bond between police and people that once existed is completely gone.
The goal of National Night out is to not only light up communities but repair the torn down bridge between police and community.
RELATED: List of National Night Out events
With a homicide rate expected to top 300 yet again in Baltimore and a nationwide cry to defund police departments— the divide between police and community is obvious and growing.
If you attend a community safety meeting in the city you’re bound to hear at least one person bring up how they wish “Officer Friendly” was still in neighborhoods.
Mayor Scott remembers those days and the zero tolerance days that followed.
“It wasn’t uncommon for me when I first started driving to get pulled over and just sat on the curb for no reason,” Scott said. “One time the officers put me in handcuffs in front of my parents house when I was returning home from college because they thought I committed a robbery. When it happened I was 2 and a half hours away in Saint Mary’s County. Those kind of things happen and we can’t go back to that. Zero tolerance didn’t work for Baltimore or what we called in our neighborhood breathing while Black didn’t work. It’s about focusing on people who are doing bad things in our neighborhood and holding them accountable but also building relationships with other folks.”
The Mayor said every part of his recently rolled out comprehensive violence reduction plan addresses community relations .
“Focusing on gun traffickers and repeat offenders, but they are also going to see us building a re entry network. So that so many people who end up shot or dead in Baltimore are folks who just came home. We have to provide a better Avenue for them. They are going to see serious investment into community violence based prevention.”
The University of Maryland Baltimore Police Department received two national awards for community policing last year.
“We don’t want to only deal with community in a negative light, when it’s something bad going on. To have something like this where a everyone can come together, eat together, enjoy each other’s company and get to know each other,” said Lt. Matthew Johnson. “Police are part of the community, we’re not just here to police the community.”
Lt. Johnson said through programs like the Police Activity League they gain their community's trust.
“The tighter knit the community is with the police department the more efficient we are. It helps us to prevent crime not just respond to crime. Helps us to understand the different facets and relationships in the community.”
Mayor Scott said National Night out is one of his favorite events of the year to bridge the gap.
“You’re going to get neighborhoods that are not only going to talk about fighting violence,” Scott said. “They are going to provide book bags and school supplies to young people. People are doing health screenings, covid screenings. Social services and job opportunities all these type of things that tie into reducing violence in our city.”
The Campus Hills Community will have the fire department and police at their event in Baltimore County.
READ MORE: National Night Out Events 2021
Wesley Wood is the leader of the citizens on Patrol in his neighborhood and says that connection with police helps year round.
“When they know we communicate with them it just seems like they are maybe responsive if we have a problem,” said Wood. “They are more open and I’ve found that very much to be the case. It may really help a crime problem if any type of a trend starts.”
A night where police work to establish connections to make everyone safer.