Tampa Police Boost Open Dialogue with Series of Community Conversations

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By Janelle H. McGregor

Residents from West Tampa, South Tampa and Davis Islands joined District One police staff at the Carver City/Lincoln Gardens Civic Association building for the department's first Community Conversation.

The Tampa Police Department is taking a new approach to building positive relationships with community members.  In August 2016, the department launched its “Community Conversation” initiative to promote meaningful discussions between officers and residents.  The goal is to achieve stronger lines of communication and collaborative solutions for addressing crime concerns.

The Community Conversations are scheduled to take place quarterly at three locations throughout the city.  The first series of dialogues were held at the Carver City/Lincoln Gardens Association building, Cyrus Greene Community Center and the Springhill Park Community Center.  Each conversation started with officers sharing something personal about themselves outside of their jobs in law enforcement.  Some talked about their favorite pastimes and growing up in Tampa, while others shared family memories. Community members listened intently and acknowledged the common bonds they shared with the officers.  Many of them could relate to the men and women who sat beside them wearing blue uniforms and badges. 

During the conversations, residents mainly voiced concerns about drugs and traffic-related issues.  Some participants asked for guidance on what they could do to help steer the youth away from criminal activity.  The Tampa Police officers in the room were able to shed light on what is currently being done to tackle some of the issues.  They also talked about programs the police department offers to help keep kids on the right track, such as the Resources in Community Hope (R.I.C.H.) House, Police Athletic League, and the Teen Academy.  Patrol supervisors quickly jotted down notes about new concerns and ideas for keeping neighborhoods safe.       

More than a hundred community members participated in the first round of Community Conversations.  The next series of dialogues will take place in November.  Chief Eric Ward hopes to see even more new faces at these vital discussions.  “We want to interact with all age groups and demographics, so we can be in tune with the diverse voices in the community we serve.”

Please visit the Police Event Calendar for the upcoming Community Conversation dates and locations.