Officers with the Goldsboro Police Department completed the agency's first-ever community policing class Wednesday by presenting projects they performed in the community to stakeholders in the community.
The course ran for roughly three weeks and was the brainchild of Police Chief Mike West and the late Maj. Jay Memmelaar.
Capt. LeAnn Rabun said the two men began working on the vision a year ago, and it became a reality with this course.
Instead of taking a course about community policing in a classroom, the department both learned about community policing and applied those principles with the projects they completed.
A total of 12 officers completed the program.
They split into three groups of four to come up with and perform the projects.
Officers Jay Holland, Jason Erkes, Joseph Legg and Kris Campbell did community outreach at The Grande at Day Circle.
They cooked hamburgers and gave them away for free with drinks and chips.
As they did this, they asked participants what officers could be doing to better relationships in the community.
"The Grande is one of our hot spots," Holland said. "That's one of the areas that when we go in, we know that most of the time we need more officers and sometimes we're not well liked. There's a lot of good people living there. It's like any other area -- it doesn't take but one person to make it look bad."
But Holland's group said going out into Day Circle out of uniform and talking to people and feeding them helped humanize the officers to the community.
It allowed people living there to see a different side of officers, and allowed officers to see a different side of people living there.
They set up at the entrance of the housing project and people began walking up and interacting with officers on their own.
The group plans to continue going out in the community and to other areas to hold events like they did and continue to connect with community members.
Officers Tim Christie, Joe Kosuda, Robert Gardner and Jared Gilstrap built a shelf for Dillard Middle School so the school can put food and supplies on it.
They plan to stock the shelf with food in the coming weeks, but could not get the shelf stocked right away due to time constraints on the project.
Gardner said, just as Holland's group did, that doing this allowed children at the school to see that officers care about the community they work in and helped to humanize them.
Gardner said before a school resource officer was put in the school, officers were called there many times to handle issues.
"It was anything from children with drugs, fights, weapons, things like that," Gardner said. "So kids are pretty much used to us coming in there and making juvenile petitions, arresting people, and that's all they ever see out of us. So we wanted them to see us doing something positive instead of just taking their friends away or serving papers."
Currently, the group is doing research on how to get the shelf stocked with food and several options are available, and plans to make an ongoing effort to keep the shelf stocked.
Officers Thomas Bailey, Marissa Davis, Anthony Tilghman and Nicki Artis held a "Carnival with a Cop" at the Peggy M. Seegars Senior Center.
They hand-built carnival games, like a putting green, a balloon race and penny toss, and played them with the seniors.
Through doing this, Artis said the group got to interact with seniors who may otherwise feel neglected. He added that everyone who attended the carnival had a fantastic time playing games with the police.
Mayor Chuck Allen, City Manager Scott Stevens, Police Chief Mike West, several other current and former members of the Police Department, people from Wayne County EMS and probation and parole and members of the community all attended the officers' project presentation.
At the end of the presentations, all 12 officers received certificates denoting their completion of the class.