Be­yond the badge

NPD pro­gram aimed at en­gag­ing with com­mu­nity

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By BROOKE SCHULTZ bschultz@ches­pub.com

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.”

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY BROOKE SCHULTZ

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.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY BROOKE SCHULTZ

Caleb Huf­ford, 5, shows off his soc­cer skills against Cpl. Brandon Walker.

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