The Palm Bay Police Department in Palm Bay, Fla. is using federal grant money to build community trust by hiring specific community-oriented officers, and acquiring patrol bicycles and a food trailer.
The grant will go towards the salaries of six police officers who will specifically carry out “community-oriented policing,” as well as six patrol bicycles and a food trailer from which to hand out free lunches to community residents.
The department said that the grant will fund a new community and youth engagement program called “The Palm Bay Police Department Community Connections Initiative.”
“The City of Palm Bay Police Department is seeking to apply for grant funding to focus on community trust and legitimacy, and youth engagement,” the grant reads. “The Department is seeking to utilize the grant funds to develop a new program, ‘The Palm Bay Police Department Community Connections Initiative.’ To increase community trust and legitimacy, the proposed initiative will equip the Community Resources Unit (CRU) with tools that will enable them to better engage the community,” it continues.
The Community Resources Unit (CRU) refers to the six officers whose duty will be to engage with the community.
Lt. Jeff Spears, who helped write the grant, said the money will go towards creating more cooperation and understanding between the police and the community.
“We want our community to know that we’re real,” Spears said.
“We are in a tough time in our society and our country as many know where law enforcement are looked at more so than ever before. So what we want our community to know is that all our officers are real. And we truly need them to help make our communities safer, to help solve crime. And so it’s easy for us to say it’s who we are, but to do that, action is even more important. To have a unit to go deliver our philosophy is what the grant was designed for.”
Spears said already the CRU is effective at decreasing crime by increasing cooperation between community members and police officers.
“Then we work together as a team and make it as peaceful as we possibly can,” Lt. Spears said. “We have seen crime decrease because of that.”
Spears said that the first grant has been effective at improving community relationships, so the department is applying for a second grant to purchase the bicycles and a food trailer.
Officers intend to use the food trailer to hand out free lunches and snacks to community residents and children at public parks.
“Us giving rather than us always wanting information back,” Spears explained.
As for the bicycles, Spears said they will be used by the CRU officers so that residents can easily approach and converse with them.
“As the CRU officers patrol neighborhoods in patrol cars, it may be difficult for citizens to approach or converse with the officers when they are inside their vehicles. If the patrolling officers were not confined within a vehicle, they may be able to connect with members of the community more easily. Outfitting the CRU officers with patrol bicycles, gear, and training for bike patrol, will allow the expanded unit to better serve and connect with the community while promoting engagement with through a more approachable, recreational patrol presence throughout the city,” Spears wrote in the grant.
Spears told News 6 that the police department will buy the bikes and trailer as soon as the grant is approved, which is expected to be around October.