On my typical walk this early morning, in the dim light of a rising sun, a police officer drove up to me. I wasn't concerned because this is my community, and less when the police officer was an old friend who serves on my city's police force. Discussed my dog, who had run away and suspected to have been taken, and a couple of other n on-crime related topics. We spoke briefly on a fairly well traveled road, especially in the morning when children are being left off at school.
The idea of greater community involvement entered my mind after he drove away. It is not a new idea, but the way it is implemented is generally left for individual communities to determine the way a police improve their needs and those approaches are quite different. Need assessments, however, often are left to a small group of people to make the assessment, or ignored all together. I thought about the effect on the minds of others driving by, which were about ten cars in the short time, and what those people were thinking about watching someone talking with a police officer.
While some driving by may think that I had done something wrong, I think the broader effect is that the community I was walking through was considered to be safe. On the individual level, developing acquaintances with people from each community will bring an improved outlook on community members of their safety and consideration as individuals. Third, others watching police officers speaking with individuals in a community will alert those with criminal intentions that police presence also exists within the hearts of their neighbors. Equally important, a police officers greater personal presence will maintain the validity of "protect and serve" service statement.
A police department's public image will improve if police are seen in other contexts and situations with greater frequency than while giving a traffic ticket. At the very least, a police officer driving by can wave a hello.