20th Anniversary Photo Contest – September Winner

Officer Mandi Brunner

The COPS Office is pleased to feature the September 2015 winner of the Community Policing in Action Photo Contest—the Dallas Police Department. Their winning photo features Sergeant Nekia Tillotson with students at a local elementary school for Career Day.

The Dallas Police Department serves a community of more than 1.2 million people. Led by Chief David Brown, the department’s mission is “to reduce crime and provide a safe city by recognizing that its goal is to help people and provide assistance at every opportunity; providing preventive, investigative, and enforcement services; increasing citizen satisfaction with public safety and obtaining community cooperation through the department's training, skills, and efforts; and realizing that the police department alone cannot control crime but must act in concert with the community and the rest of the criminal justice system.”1 Brown emphasizes the importance of community policing daily, focusing on community policing as a crime fighting tool.

Through numerous programs, the department’s community outreach expands far and wide. The department’s Office of Community Affairs focuses its efforts on developing safety programs to meet community needs.2 Through educational, crime prevention, and youth programs, the Office of Community Affairs maintains a strong presence in the Dallas area. With seven community engagement units, one in each of the seven patrol districts, the community has regular access to Dallas police officers.

A few of the well-known programs offered through the Office of Community Affairs include Coffee with a Cop, which the department hosts quarterly in each of the seven patrol districts. Through strong outreach efforts using social media, the last time the department hosted Coffee with a Cop, it made the top ten trending topics nationwide on Twitter. Chief on the Beat, another popular outreach program, was developed to encourage health and safety as means for holistic crime prevention among the Dallas community.

The Office of Community Affairs focuses a large part of its efforts on its youth programs. Featured in this month’s winning photo, Sergeant Nekia Tillotson shared with the COPS Office, “the youth are our biggest cheerleaders. They love us and they love what we do.” In the photo, Tillotson was speaking to an elementary school class about the significance of 911. “I talked to them about 911—reasons to call, reasons not to call, why it’s important not to play on the phone.” This important conversation is one that Tillotson had often during her tenure in the Office of Community Affairs before being promoted to the Records Division. “We did it weekly, we’d go to all of the schools,” she explained. “We’d identify how many students were in a school, determine how many officers we needed to cover each class. We had a schedule. We really wanted to hit every class in the school.”

While speaking to the students, it became clear to Tillotson that some of the students already had some familiarity with 911. “There were kids in the class that have actually called 911. They understand what 911 is for. Kids have more access today with cell phones. They know what our job function is, and they were able to ask questions and offer information,” said Tillotson. Engaging with youth who have had exposure to law enforcement can make a very strong impact on their futures. Providing them the opportunity to speak with a police officer about their experiences can help build trust that might otherwise never develop.

The department places a priority on continuous youth engagement as a means of building and maintaining positive community relations. This past August, Brown and the department held a free event for 900 Dallas youth called “Let’s Talk” aimed at discussing youth relationships with law enforcement.3 Held at the local convention center, youth were able to interact with officers in a safe, comfortable setting with food, games, music, and dancing.

“If you have a message, you have to go through the youth,” said Tillotson, whose passion for community affairs is noticeable in the way she talks about her work. “If you stop by to see them, they’re going to want to know everything about you from the tools in your belt to what you do every day. Once they start to feel comfortable with you, they trust you.”

Tillotson has been a police officer for 12 years. Prior to her promotion to the Records Division, she worked in the Office of Community Affairs and served as a neighborhood police officer.

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

Written with contributions from Sergeant Nekia Tillotson and Shawn Williams, Manager of the Office of Community Affairs. Photo courtesy of the Dallas Police Department.

Najla Haywood
Special Contributor
The COPS Office


1 “Mission Statement,” Dallas Police Department, accessed August 12, 2015, http://www.dallaspolice.net/dpdinfo/dpdinfo.html.
2 “Programs,” Dallas Police Department, accessed August 12, 2015, http://www.dallaspolice.net/community/programs.html.
3 Naomi Martin, “Dallas Police Invite 900 Youths to Discuss How to Deal with Cops,” The Dallas Morning News, last modified August 5, 2015, http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20150804-dallas-police-invite-900-youths-to-discuss-how-to-deal-with-cops.ece.

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