An initiative launched by the Greenville Police Department in North Carolina is creating a common ground between community members and police – at the barbershop.
The initiative, called Cops and Barbers, aims to create a space for police officers to stop by and chat with locals, as well as get their hair cut, to improve relationships and increase understanding between police and civilians.
Demetrus Barrett, the owner of P.I.C. Kutz, recently joined the initiative.
“I grew up on the west side of Greenville, right in the heart of Greenville where a lot of crime went on,” Barrett said. “I have had people ask me, ‘What made you open up a barbershop next to a police station?’ I said, ‘Hey, they need haircuts too.’”
GPD Sgt. Richie Williams started the initiative five years ago after a successful pilot program in Charlotte.
“You can go to the barbershop and talk about everything, from sports to religion to politics to who is your best football team to who is the sorriest. It’s just a good dynamic as far as being able to reach the community,” Sgt. Williams said.
Williams told Spectrum News 1 that the program has grown from six barbershops to fifteen, and represent a place where officers are welcome to stop by and chat with residents.
“When we first launched Cops and Barbers, we had six barbershops. Now, we are up to 15. It’s really about me going where it’s needed. More importantly letting our officers know that these barber shops are Cops and Barber shops. Stop in. Get out of your car. Go in and speak to them,” Sgt. Williams said.
Williams explained that it wasn’t easy at first trying to persuade barbers to work with the police, but they are glad they did. He believes it has even improved the community’s attitude towards police officers.
“More importantly, they are able to relay that to their customers because even the customers are skeptical about why are the police at the barber shop. Are they snitching on us? Now, you walk into the barber shop and they say, ‘Oh that’s so and so from Cops and Barbers.’ It has changed that mindset,” he said.
Because of the barbershop’s close ties to police, community members will often ask the barbers specific questions, which they can relay to the police to get answers.
“People come to the barbers with questions and by me being able to take those questions to the police department and then bring those people back answers I think that ties in very well,” Barrett said.
Cops and Barbers is one of GPD’s community policing initiatives, which Barrett hopes will expand, calling it a “start” towards repairing trust between community members and police officers.