By Will Fairless
The Opelika Police Department announced at a press conference Tuesday morning, that it has launched its “Together, Opelika” campaign.
“The new campaign is being introduced with three primary goals,” the release said.
· “To LOWER CRIME and INCREASE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
· To BUILD COMMUNITY TRUST in our police department in a time when people are exposed to mostly negative interactions with law enforcement on the news and social media
· To ESTABLISH GENUINE RELATIONSHIPS between the Opelika Police Department and the community
· To ENCOURAGE COMMUNITY SUPPORT FOR OUR OFFICERS by humanizing the badge – we want to show the community that each officer is someone’s brother/sister, father/mother, son/daughter”
OPD will be implementing and creating new ways for the city to push out and receive information, the release said. The police department has new social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all @opelikapd and on Youtube at OpelikaCityGov), a website that will soon be revamped (opelikapd.org) and an app that is in development now.
Captain Shane Healey said that the campaign is designed to build trust and relationships between the community and the police department. The department is trying to improve how it relates to the community, namely by getting out of police cars and engaging with people on their turf,” he said.
“We know that patrolling neighborhoods is not enough,” Healey said.
He added that although he knows it’s not necessarily natural or comfortable for people to go to the police department (thus the department’s focus on interacting out in the community), Together, Opelika is not a one-way street. He asked for citizens to participate by inviting police into their neighborhoods, creating dialogue with them and sharing ideas. The new app will make it easier for citizens to uphold their end of this bargain.
“Our police department is already doing great things, but we can always be better,” said Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller. “It’s time for us to start sharing what we are doing with the public and working with citizens to determine better ways to engage with them.”
The police department also announced the hiring of a new Community Relations Specialist, Allison Duke.
“The new Community Relations/Special Services Division is focused on engaging with citizens of Opelika, improving cultural relations and strengthening employee relations,” another press release from the city said.
“We are proud to welcome Allison to the team and have her help to bridge the gap between our police department and the community,” Healey said. “She comes to us with many years of experience in communications and community engagement and we look forward to her developing strong relationships in the community.”