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…But is it working? Introducing the Connected Communities Blog

By August 25, 2019No Comments

At Serve & Connect, we believe in the power of partnerships. When police and community work together, great things happen. Trust is built. Resources are shared. Voices are empowered. And most importantly, real, lasting improvements are made that lead to safe communities where everyone can thrive.

Yet, while we believe in that collaboration is key, we also know it can be hard to do.

Enter: Connected Communities Blog. Our goal with this blog is to take a deep dive into the issues that matter most for creating connections between police and community. We’ll feature diverse voices, those with expertise from either work, training or lived experience, who have seen these issues front and center. We’ll talk challenges, highlight solutions, and most importantly show the impact that we can achieve when we work together.
For our first edition of Connected Communities, we are taking a close-up look at our COMPASS work from one of our key partners who has been intimately involved in the movement from the very beginning.
Lt. Robert Calby is a special soul. A law enforcement veteran for 13 years, he says his favorite thing about his work is helping people in their time of need. “There is a lot to love about the job,” he shared. “But, at the end of the day, it’s being able to help someone who is having their worst day ever. No one ever gets police involved when things are going well. So, to be able to enter into someone’s life, if even for a brief moment, and help them is very rewarding.”
Robert serves in Columbia Police Department’s North Region which is located in the community where we are targeting our COMPASS efforts as part of the North Columbia Youth Empowerment Initiative. He has been involved with the initiative since it was first conceptualized and has engaged his heart, voice, time, and passion to ensuring it’s success.
We asked Robert to share his reflections on the initiative so far beginning with a simple question, “Do you think it’s working?” His response was powerful and touches on a key issue: so often, the areas that can most benefit from positive police-community connections are the areas that also experience the highest rates of crime, violence, and disparities. Do community partnerships make a difference in these communities? Does trust matter for safety? Are they a worthy investment of time, energy and resources?
Read his heartfelt perspective below.

When Kassy asked me “is it working, can you see a difference”; I paused – I shouldn’t have paused… but I paused.The question came on the tail end of the Summer Series which was a series of positive non-enforcement police/community engagements that culminated in a community cook out. What stood out to me from each event was how the attendance kept growing. During the first event there was a sense of reluctance in the air that could be seen by everyone in attendance. But as we continued to show up week after week, the attendance and camaraderie grew. Our fourth week, the community cookout, was perhaps the largest turnout as well as community engagement. Everyone stepped up and filled in where help was needed; police officers were cooking on the grill; and community members were adhoc DJs. It was a great time. The seed of friendships were planted over that month, and it was apparent that trust was being built in both directions.

Then it happened: violence struck the community. Our new friends were directly impacted by senseless violence. Sadly, what stood out to me in the following days were two fold. First, the community response to the violence was timely and appropriate. Community trauma partners showed up in force to ‘be present’ for anyone who needed resources. But sadly there was still a numbness in the community that translated to ‘just another day’ mindset – and that bothers me, violence should not be the ‘norm’.

So when Kassy asked me if I thought it was working, I paused to ask myself is it really working? Are we magnifying the potential for youth to thrive or are we just “doing our job”? It was at that moment that I saw a child from one of our recent events at a local gas station. His face lit up when he saw me and he made it a point to let me know that he remembered me from a previous Summer Series event. His mother was equally engaging. Although this took mere seconds, it was the sign I needed to know that our work in the community is working.

The mission of the North Columbia Youth Empowerment Initiative has always been to strengthen partnerships with the aim of improving community safety and promoting youth outcomes in North Columbia by magnifying the potential for youth to thrive in a safe environment. This mission will take a lot of work and cannot be measured on a day to day basis. The tragedy of a single event cannot be the metric we measure the NCYEI success on, rather it is measured in all of the little moments that happen in the blink of an eye.