COMMENTARY-(ENEWSPF)- Consider this a kudos to the women and men of the Park Forest Police Department. It goes without saying that the relationship between communities and police is not always great. But the PFPD goes out of its way repeatedly to shatter stereotypes and build bridges between police and the public they serve.
Years ago, I recall riding with the family through Downtown Pittsburgh. Dad was driving. The car? I don’t recall the make or model. Dad would remember for sure. At any rate, the car stalled at a light in front of the Civic Arena later dubbed “The Igloo” by Pittsburgh Penguin fans.
The windows were down. It was warm outside. A Pittsburgh Police Officer flashed the emergency lights on his squad car and stopped to inquire as to why we weren’t moving. Dad told him the car had stalled.
“Well, move the car!” the officer said.
“We can’t!” Dad said. “It won’t start!
The officer once again ordered that we somehow move the car up the hill and out of the way.
“Hey!” Mom said, “We can’t move the car!”
The car eventually started, but I always remembered what happened. I was years away from driving at the time.
The officer showed chutzpah, but not the good kind.
Some of you may be reading this thinking, “If that’s your worst experience with the police, count yourself lucky.” And you may indeed be right. White people in this country generally have a fraction of negative run-ins with police compared to people of color.
Police in Park Forest demonstrate a different kind of chutzpah, the good kind, the great kind, and that is not by accident. Almost a year ago, then newly-minted Police Chief Christopher Mannino told eNews Park Forest that one of his goals centered on the relationship between community members and the police, “My long-term goals center around building relationships, that we continue to improve relationships with the community. And I think we already have a very good relationship with the community, but I think we always need to move forward.”
And move forward they have. Reflected in social media posts, members of the department have gone above and beyond “IRL,” in real life, reaching out repeatedly. Recently, members of the department watched a screening of The Hate U Give with eighth-grade students. Officers then participated in a forum discussion on themes of the movie.
“For those of you unfamiliar with the film,” police said in a statement about the event, “the plot centers around Starr Carter who witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Starr faces pressures from all sides of the community, and must find her voice and stand up for what’s right.”
“Chutzpah has been defined as audacity, insolence, impudence, gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible guts, presumption and arrogance,” Rabbi Tzvi Freeman writes at Chabad.org, “Yet something essential about chutzpah is missing from all these words.”
“Chutzpah can be destructive and ugly or vital and fantastic, but never in-between,” Rabbi Freeman
Engaging in that discussion with young people took a certain amount of chutzpah. “Great leaders have great chutzpah,” Rabbi Freeman writes.
So, it took a leader with chutzpah in February 2018 for Officer Garrick Enns to shovel snow gratis for a Park Forester after a caller expressed concern about a family member’s ability to get out of a driveway.
When Officers Taylor and Kessler responded to a call of a woman whose tire was slashed and found she had no one to put the spare tire on, they took care of it for her. That was in December of 2017. That took a certain kind of chutzpah.
The chutzpah leaders exhibit.
The department that dances and lip syncs with one of its members who recovers day-by-day to once more stand and patrol with them, that takes a certain kind of chutzpah.
And, most recently, police said in a social media post:
Hey, Park Foresters.
You have 42 police officers willing to risk their lives for you. In case you ever wondered what you’re worth.
We’re in good hands, Park Forest. Yes, we still need to watch them, and they need to watch us. That’s the way things are.
That bridge to a better tomorrow we dream about sometimes?
We’re crossing that together, thanks in no small part to our women and men in blue.
Kudos to them.
And kudos to you, Park Forest.