West Side church pushes for more community engagement with police

The church also did a backpack giveaway and had an emergency housing assistance program on site for residents

SAN ANTONIO – A West Side church kicked off its mission to bridge the gap between residents and law enforcement during a community block party Saturday.

The event consisted of food, games, and many conversations between residents and plain-clothed officers with the San Antonio Police Department’s Community Engagement Unit.

“I have been an officer for about 24 years now,” said Joel Pope with the community engagement unit. “It is always great to be out here. We are not in uniform because we like to dress down and engage with community. Makes it a little more personal and less intimidating. We see excitement in the kids’ faces when they find out we are police officers. A lot of them say, ‘I want to be a police officer!’ So we are excited to see that.”

Officer Ron Brown is another officer with the unit.

“We are way ahead of the country for a long time and I have had a chance to observe and see that especially with people out on the streets,” said Brown. “It feels good to give back and be a part of the solution when it comes to giving our young people an understanding of what a police officer is and exactly what they do.”

Pastor Vincent Robinson said he believes events such as this are critical.

“Brings joy to me because now they are seeing officers as human beings and for who they are, and knowing that they struggle like we do,” Robinson said. “They have issues like we do. But if we are not going to sit down and talk about the problems and educate one another and agree to disagree then we are never going to move forward.”

“I believe relationship is what changes people,” said Mark Roye, with Someone Cares San Antonio. “Programs are great but this helps build relationships not only with the church but with the police department and that is what really transforms the community is good relationships.”

They said the plan is to make this community engagement block party a community event.

In the meantime, they are planning for their next event scheduled for September 18 at the West End Park.

San Antonio police are also asking anyone with any event scheduled that they would love to have officer engagement to call the Community Engagement Unit at (210)-207-6235.

More on KSAT:

Community rallies to help repair humble West Side church

About the Authors:

Japhanie Gray is a reporter with KSAT12 News.