One police department in the Pine Belt has a different approach on connecting with the community.
It is a program that puts citizens in the front seat of a police car and gives people a chance to take a glimpse into working an officer’s night shift.
“In today’s police culture, it’s imperative for police departments to reach out to their community and build relationships,” Seminary Police Chief Michael Kelly said.
With the divided lines between citizens and police across the nation, Kelly said offering community ride-alongs is just one way the department is trying to mend the gap.
“To put that community member in the passenger seat of a patrol car, a firsthand experience on what that officer sees and how fast it all plays out, it’s invaluable,” Kelly said.
There is a some paperwork as well as a bit of a background check before the fun starts. After that, it is well worth the wait. The opportunity gives a community member a chance to tour the station and ride shotgun with an officer and patrol the city on night shift.
Kelly said the ride-along program was put in to place in 2013, which was when the department was reinstated in the city. But it has really taken off lately.
“I would like to see it open more up in the community, rather than just predominately right now we have seen students,” Kelly said.
Kelly said a lot of the participants so far have been seniors in high school that are curious about law enforcement or perusing a career in the field.
As far as what you may get to see, that is all according to just what is going on.
“Whether that be a simple interaction with the public and someone asking for directions which happens all the time, or whether that officer is working a traffic accident with a fatality, they get to see what that officer sees and that is invaluable,” Kelly said.
Kelly explained their job is far more than just writing tickets and the department is here for a purpose.
“It’s going to be our number one job, to provide that service to our community," Kelly said. "They can trust us, no matter what their need may be they have somebody that they can call and if we can’t meet their need we will find somebody to meet their need."
Kelly has tried a few new things; the department has a great social media following as well as a presence on Facebook and Twitter, which Kelly said is a group effort in keeping the community involved and informed.
Kelly has 15 officers that work in his department and said all are great guys who all have a different focus in the community.
“Some are interested in multiple different aspects of law enforcement, but all my guys put the community first, and will do anything they can to help, it often goes way beyond the scope of just police work,” Kelly said.
No matter what at the end of each shift, every officer is working toward the same thing.
“The main goal at the end of the day is to go home," Kelly said. "We all have families, you know whether, it be wives or moms and dads, we have families that we have to go home to."