While I was away on vacation, I heard that the local community policing center (formerly Nassau County’s eighth precinct building) was invaded by moms, dads, kids and veterans who brought cookies, doughnuts and homemade cards and pictures just to say “thank you” for all that the local police do for our community. This is just another example of the kindness and caring that goes on in the Levittown community. Given all the ugly speech going on throughout the country, it is important for regular community members to do positive and kind acts for their children to see and participate in. I’d love to see the next generation be a lot more respectful and affirming than many of my generation.
I called the police department to see what their reaction was and as Detective Vincent Garcia said, “The reason for any cop to join the police department is to protect and serve. They do this out of a sense of duty, not because they want praise and thanks. But to have the community reach out to us and acknowledge what we are doing, just warms our hearts.”
Amidst the appreciation of the officers was the realization that they couldn’t eat all the sweets that were dropped off so they shared them with other precincts. But what touched them most were the hand-written cards from the children and parents and the clever goodie bags with things like Life Savers (thanking the officers for saving lives).
What else can the people of the community do in support of local police? First, Garcia said, realize that police officers have families too. They live in the community and the main thing is they want to go home to their families each night. So it’s important for parents to teach their children that police officers are there to help the whole community.
When some parents see the police, they say things to their children such as, “If you don’t behave the police are going to arrest you.” As a priest I hear comments like this too. “You’d better behave because Father Ralph is watching you.” What? Are they suggesting that they ought to be afraid because I have some power to make God punish a behavior that’s frustrating to the parent? The contrary is true—forgiveness is my strong point, so I’m more likely to side with the child. And so, too, it is with the police. They want to help, serve and protect and not be seen as scary. That is why the police officers were so thrilled that parents brought their children along that day.
“Come over and visit the precincts and get to know us,” said Garcia. (Doughnuts not required).
The other thing that the community can do to assist the police in service is to be the eyes and ears of the community. Garcia said that people know when something is not right on their street. A strange car with its occupants engaged in strange activity, suspected drug sales, etc.—these types of things are noticed by residents. They shouldn’t hesitate to call 911 if they are concerned about something that doesn’t seem right. The police want to be partners in keeping neighborhoods safe and will investigate.
So congratulations to all who participated in affirming our local police. Our children are watching and learning from us. With that in mind, who else can you help your children understand and affirm in our community? This is a good beginning and doesn’t have to end here.