WEST PHILADELHIA (WPVI) --Philadelphia police officers spent the day Friday getting to know the neighborhoods they protect and serve. Police officers across the city took part in community day.
This is the first time all of the police districts have held their community events on the same day. And police officers say, for those in the community who show up, these events do work.
Dominoes, bingo, pool and police officers - it's a mixture that you may not be accustomed to seeing. But this is more than just games - it's community policing.
Officer Albert Cruz from the 25th District tells us, "Right now it is a tough time for police. We get a lot of negative press, so doing things like this is good for us. It makes us feel good."
Police districts across Philadelphia are uniting and holding Police and Community Day events in their neighborhoods.
Officer Cruz says, "The idea is, police can't fix it themselves, the community can't do it by themselves. It's a network."
The goal is to meet and greet the public, break down communication barriers, and show that behind the gun and badge is a real person.
Lt. Vince Testa from the 39th District says, "We want them to walk away knowing that we're people. We have first names, not just titles. We do this job eight hours a day, five days a week in different shifts, but we're people too."
Those who showed up say seeing the officers outside of their patrol cars makes a difference. They say the one-on-one interaction builds a relationship of trust on both sides.
Aiyana Martinez is a student at Mercy Vocational High School. She says, "I would love to see this more. It's great to show everybody that it's OK to be with the police, there's nothing to be scared of."
Across the country, and right here in Philadelphia, there have been incidents where police and communities have clashed, creating tension and a harsh attitude towards police. Many are hoping outreach events will help change that and build a stronger bond between the officers and the neighborhoods they patrol.
Capt. Joseph Bologna from the 19th District says, "Protect life, protect property. But to do that we need to engage human beings, right? There's no other way to do this than actually reaching out and then having that hand touch your hand. It don't get any better than this. Even talking about it, I get excited."
Some of the officers say they were so impressed by the engagement and response that they now plan on holding these types of events twice a year in their districts, on top of everything else they already do.