Beyond the badge
NPD program aimed at engaging with community
The hot weather and threat of rain didn’t keep the Newark Police Department’s Special Operations Unit from spending some time with the community last Friday.
The Pop-Up in the Park event was a way to encourage the community – especially kids – to see the person beyond the badge, Sgt. Greg D’Elia said.
During the two hour event at White Chapel Park, the officers duked it out in cornhole, basketball and soccer, while others spent some time on the swings. Dino’s Ice Cream & Italian Water Ice truck was there to cool everyone down after they’d worked up quite a sweat running around.
This event is a test run of other potential programming that D’Elia would like to see his unit do. The idea is based off programs by other police agencies that have created mobile Police Athletic League centers.
“We don’t have a PAL center in Newark,” D’Elia said. “The main part of having a PAL is really to set up and have an outlet for kids after school so they don’t get in trouble, they don’t commit crimes and they don’t get victimized by people who are committing crimes.”
D’Elia said that there’s interest in the Police Athletic League of Delaware bringing a center to the area but, in the meantime, they want
to bring the activities to the kids.
For a test-run, D’Elia thinks it went well and is looking forward to the next event on Aug. 17 at Dickey Park. At that iteration of a NPD Pop-Up, officers will be working with the Police Athletic League of Delaware and Newark Parks and Recreation Department to set up game booths and a barbecue. The state police will likely bring their horses, too, he added.
“It gives parents a break on a Friday evening, starting at 4 o’clock,” he said. “They can come hang out with us, we’ve got free food, free drinks. Dinner’s on us.”
At the root of these events? D’Elia’s reason for becoming a cop.
“This is why you become a police officer – you want to engage with the community and you want to hear what’s going on. You want to hear their concerns so that you can address them,” he explained. “You might see a police car in your neighborhood all the time, but if it’s this blazing hot out, nine times out of 10, that cop’s driving around with their windows up, with the A/C
cranked up and you’re not going to have this interaction unless you get out and do these kind of things.”
By playing some games with the kids, D’Elia said, it allows for the barriers to come down and for the community to share the concerns they may not have otherwise brought forth.
“This is rewarding,” he said. “You get out, you get to talk with people, you get to have that positive interaction – you get to let them see you as a person. I’ve had kids come up to me at community events and tell me they want to be a police officer, so that’s cool to hear.”
Master Cpl. Morgan Fountain throws a bean bag while Cpl. Darryl Saunders looks on during a pop-up community event last Friday. Fountain was playing a game of cornhole against Kylie Dowling, 10.
Caleb Hufford, 5, shows off his soccer skills against Cpl. Brandon Walker.