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Police officers need to get to know the neighborhoods they serve | READER COMMENTARY

Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison listens to a question from, on right, Wesley Hawkins, of The Nolita Project, at a rally at CIty Hall to remember George Floyd and other African Americans killed by police and demand change. June 4, 2020.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison listens to a question from, on right, Wesley Hawkins, of The Nolita Project, at a rally at CIty Hall to remember George Floyd and other African Americans killed by police and demand change. June 4, 2020. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

The de facto motto of every police department in America is to “protect and serve.” I believe the aspect of serving has been lost, and therefore there is a mutual lack of trust and respect within our society. If our men and women in blue could focus more on service, many issues that we are addressing today would begin to be resolved (“Demonstrators shift to memorializing George Floyd, vow to sustain momentum until change to address racial injustice happens,” June 5). To serve is to breach boundaries, feel compassion and empathy, make connections and, more importantly, be humble. Let’s give that a try.

I’m not talking about a one-time food drive or holiday donations. On a daily basis, our police force should take time to get to know the community and be part of it. Walk the streets, talk with neighbors, clean up playgrounds and parks, pause to read to a child on a front stoop, join a pick-up hoops game, all these actions will enlighten the police to the humanity of those around them as well as build a trusting relationship. Take the time to know the people the police have pledged to protect and serve, being aware of their struggles, issues, challenges and even their joys. No one would hold a knee on the neck of another person when humanity is valued, trusted and understood. Nor would anyone simply stand by as they witness such an action.

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I do applaud the Baltimore Police Department for their involvement in the most recent protests. Their actions did serve and protect both the protesters and the public. As one of the few major cities that has not implemented a curfew in the past week, we should be proud. This shows great progress, but there is more work to be done. If every police officer spent their “beat” time focused on serving, they would have a much better relationship with those they have pledged to protect. Approach each incident with the objections of protection AND service. Get out of the car, off the cell phone and engage. With engagement, trust and respect will come. Be human beings with other human beings. We are all part of the same race.

Renee Farnham, Baltimore

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