Dover Police, NAACP Host Community Outreach Event - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Dover Police, NAACP Host Community Outreach Event

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Dover Police Chief Paul Bernat poses with several children at community outreach event geared toward mending police relationship with residents. (Photo: WBOC) Dover Police Chief Paul Bernat poses with several children at community outreach event geared toward mending police relationship with residents. (Photo: WBOC)

DOVER, Del. -- The Dover Police Department and the Central Delaware National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held its first joint community meet-and-greet outreach program Thursday evening.

It was a night of food, music and activities for children centered around a friendly basketball game between Dover residents and police cadets, all as a sign of good faith that the department is serious about mending its relationship with the African American and lower-income communities in the city.

Community activist and member of the Greater Dover Arts Council, Chevis Anderson, said this is a defining moment for the city.

"Right now we don't see uniforms. We see actual people in their everyday lives," Anderson said.

"This is a great time for us to come together so they can see us more than just a person on the block walking down the street or a police officer out patrolling the street," he said. 

Some people at the event have questioned the police department's use of excessive force and what they call unfair treatment of certain groups.

Back in May, a video was released showing the still-suspended Cpl. Thomas Webster, who is white, kicking an African American man in the head as the man appeared to be surrendering.

There was also the officer-involved shooting in August that happened next to a day care center where a 21-year old man was shot in the thigh as he ran from police. That man was later arrested on gun charges.

Dover Police Chief Paul Bernat said he is thrilled the NAACP and the department could make the event happen.

"There's a lot of contrast between what happened out here about six weeks ago," said Bernat. "You saw a lot of upset people. You saw the police trying to calm things down. Now you see everybody with their guards down. They're all having a good time."

From kids dancing, to officers and locals shooting hoops, it all makes residents like George Wilson feel better about interacting with police. Especially since Wilson was one of the upset community members protesting the police on the day of the shooting.

"I agree I was mad at the time," Wilson said. "Now after being here, I feel a little bit better. The cops are coming out interacting now. They get to see who we are and we get to see who they are. I feel like that's great for the community."

Bernat said his hope is to host weekly or monthly community outreach events in Dover in the near future. 

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