Two officers from the District 7 Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) recently presented a program called Educate 2 Empower at the SaintA campus on 89th and Capitol. It was a casual, yet powerful, workshop about the relationship between law enforcement and citizens.
Officer JD Belongia and Officer Lawson Murrell were there representing the Office of Community Outreach & Education and at the invitation of SaintA’s Community Outreach team.
“We’re here to educate the community about what the police do, why they do it and where they do it,” says Officer Murrell. “Citizens who are educated feel more empowered to make positive decisions for themselves and their community.”Police and citizens have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to building trust. The Educate 2 Empower program is just one way of engaging the community to build that trust.
Throughout the evening, the officers provided information about their objective while on patrol – and it’s not necessarily what people think.
“We want to be out there talking to residents,” says Officer Belongia, who was a former bicycle cop who really enjoyed interacting with citizens from that vantage point. “Often times, we might engage with a citizen over something as simple as loitering. While that is against city ordinance, it’s more about getting to know people than intending to write a ticket.”
Officer Murrell adds, “When an officer addresses a concern with someone, we are both responsible for how the conversation goes.” As a bit of advice he adds, “A person’s attitude could mean the difference between a conversation, a ticket, or a trip to the station.”
Dots = Cops = Stops
Together, the officers and workshop participants looked at maps of Milwaukee Police Districts, especially District 7, which consistently receives the most calls to dispatch.
Using data points (marked as dots) on the official map, the officers pointed out some of the highest serious crime areas.
“Where there are more dots, there are more of us patrolling to try and deter some of that crime,” says Officer Murrell. “If you live there and get stopped by us, it’s not that we were targeting you; there’s just a higher likelihood we’ll cross paths with you the more of us there are in the area.”
Deciphering a Police Call
One of the evening’s activities was to learn a little about how a police dispatch call is received, logged and reported on. The officers played a call and asked participants to transcribe as much information as possible and then relay it back correctly.
While one or two youth participants did pretty well at remembering all the shorthand, most others were left wondering what just happened.
Successful Time Spent Together
About 15 citizens, ranging in age from teens to 50-somethings, were in attendance for Educate 2 Empower. Most learned about the workshop through neighborhood fliers or through SaintA staff members, such as Kourtney Blevins, Community Outreach Specialist.
Watch Kourtney discuss another way SaintA reached out to the community this past winter.