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20th Anniversary Photo Contest – May Winner

Inspector Alisa Petty

The COPS Office is pleased to feature the May 2015 winner of the Community Policing in Action Photo Contest—The Grand Prairie (Texas) Police Department. Their winning photo features Sergeant Stephen Davis eating lunch with students at the Immaculate Conception Catholic School.

The Grand Prairie Police Department, comprising approximately 259 officers, serves a population of almost 200,000 people and is the 11th largest police department in Texas. Located between Dallas and Fort Worth, Grand Prairie is a diverse and vibrant community. The police department reflects the community’s diversity with a large number of African-American and Hispanic officers. The department, led by Chief Steven Dye, is “dedicated to service and partnering with the community to maintain a safe environment with a high quality of life.” 1

In accordance with its mission, the department has an established partnership with the school district that allows officers to join local students for lunch. In this month’s featured photo, Sergeant Stephen Davis is pictured eating lunch with elementary-aged students at the Immaculate Conception Catholic School. “This photo is from last February, when we sent a few officers to the school to have lunch with the kids,” said Mark Beseda, the department’s public information officer, who has served for fifteen years. “It turned out to be a pretty fun day. After lunch, a few of the officers went to the gym and played basketball with the kids. They loved it so much that they went back again this year. The kids remembered the officers and were so excited to see them. The older ones with cell phones wanted to take selfies with the officers. Some of the kids even asked the officers for autographs.”

Beseda shared that these types of visits mean a lot to the officers. “It’s great to be able to get off the streets for an hour. Thirty minutes before this picture was taken, an officer could have just put someone in jail. It’s the greatest feeling to walk into a school and have the kids run up to you with excitement. They think we’re there to save the world,” he laughed.

Programs like this one are an important part of Grand Prairie’s community policing efforts. Beseda spoke of multiple initiatives in which officers interact with community members, including sporting events such as basketball. “A group of officers went to a local YMCA to play against a team of twenty teenagers. We lost by one point, but it was so successful that we will continue to do it. We’re not the bad guys that we’re sometimes made out to be. Something as simple as basketball can change that opinion.”

While most youth appreciate spending time with the officers, Beseda shared that Grand Prairie’s growing population of Vietnamese children has experienced different emotions. Very recently, officers went into a local school to read books to the students. A young girl in the class cried during the entire reading. When the officer asked the teacher why the young girl was crying, she told him that the girl had recently moved to the area from Vietnam and was terrified of police. The child’s fear of the police led the officer to make arrangements with the teacher to return in the near future to visit again with the students. “The goal is to build relationships with the younger kids so they are not afraid of us,” said Beseda. “We have also initiated more outreach with the Vietnamese community here. We have Vietnamese officers who record a lot of our outreach messages at a nearby Vietnamese television station, and we are hosting our annual awards banquet at a Vietnamese hall.” While these may seem like small gestures to some, community-police relationships are built incrementally over time. Grand Prairie police officers know this and will continue their efforts to build strong, positive relationships with some of the newest community members one step at a time.

The COPS Office congratulates the Grand Prairie Police Department for being one of 12 winners of the COPS Office Community Policing in Action Photo Contest and for its commitment to community policing.

Written with contributions from Officer Mark Beseda, Public Information Officer. Photo courtesy of the Grand Prairie Police Department.

Najla Haywood
Special Contributor
The COPS Office


References

1 Grand Prairie Police Department website, accessed March 20, 2015, http://www.gptx.org/index.aspx?page=494.

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