SHARON, Pa. (WYTV) – In light of protests and riots in Ferguson and Baltimore, police departments across the country have been working to strengthen community relations.
In Sharon, police are proactively working to make sure officers develop good relationships with people.
Police Chief Gerald Smith said meeting with the community has been a big priority even before protests started. He said if the community can trust law enforcement, it will help his department solve crimes and maybe even prevent them.
Smith wants to make sure people are not seeing his officers only when something bad happens.
“I want to thank everyone for coming and I want you to know you can trust the Sharon Police Department,” Smith told the crowd at a meeting Monday. “Over the last several years, there has been a disconnect between the police and the public and I want to forge a partnership between the police and public.”
He said he has been proactive since he took over as police chief late last summer.
“I want my guys to be connected and part of the community and engaged,” Smith said.
In the 1990’s, federal grants allowed Sharon Police to have community oriented police officers, but as funding went away so did the type of patrolling that built community relations.
But since Smith has started as chief, people serving and living in the community said they have seen positive changes.
“A lot of times when children see the police they say ‘here comes the police’ and run. Now, when they see them they can go toward them and ask them questions,” resident Karen Weston said.
“How can two walk together if they do not agree,” Rev. Leon Avery Jr. of Bethlehem Baptist Church said.
Avery said he works to teach his congregation to trust the police.
“It is all about love. We have to show love to one another,” Avery said.
Smith said he plans on having at least three more of these meetings over the next few months.