In light of recent shootings, police focus on safety and community

WEST PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Police officers all across the country and here in the Delaware Valley are on alert. The Philadelphia Police Department is already making changes.

And despite the recent climate, Philadelphia police went forward with a community outreach event that was planned for Friday.

Police Commissioner Richard Ross tells us, "Depending on the routes of those demonstrations we have to take into account buildings we didn't have to worry about before. Again many of our demonstrations are impromptu so we don't always know where they going."

And Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby says, "The police commissioner I've been in constant contact with since about 5 o'clock this morning. Everybody's on the same page. We're going to work to make sure that not only our officers are safe but the community is safe also."

Among changes, for now Philadelphia officers will patrol two to a car. And in the wake of Dallas, when escorting protesters there will be vigilance for outside threats.

This week's police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota and Thursday night's ambush of Dallas officers are renewing debate about the history of distrust between police and minority communities.

Which brings us to the police sponsored block party held Friday in the 18th District.

The annual event is a fun chance for little ones to bounce in bounce houses or try a police siren. But there is a serious intent to let kids meet officers in a stress free zone.

With teens, officers in the 18th District sponsor rec center meet ups.

Captain Robin Wimberly explains that objective is to, "Try to reach them on a level that they are comfortable with and then we can open a dialogue. And after that event we had a couple of young people shocked that we were actually people, we weren't robots and didn't dislike them."

State Rep. Joanna McClinton applauded the outreach. But she says the next step needs to be continuing meetings between adults and police to find common ground.

Rep. McClinton says, "Everybody is forgetting that everyone on each side is a human being also. All of our lives are very fragile and all of our lives matter."

Call it dialogue, call it communication, or call it simply "talking," but both the state representative and police captain emphasize the need for respect and then the talking. That's the only way, they say, you can really bridge the divide of distrust that exists between the community and police at times.
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