Community Walk Connects Cops With Kids

Allan Appel PhotoThe only time Justys Graham wants to be in a police car is in the front seat,  where Lt. Jason Minardi let him for a few seconds operate the sirens,the loudspeaker, and the flashing lights.

That was precisely the outcome that police officials were hoping for from an hour-long community walk organized by Daniel Hunt at the Eastview Terrace Housing Authority of New Haven family development on Eastern Street in the shadow of Bella Vista.

Hunt, a 21-year-old community-minded Board of Education student support staffer, has been organizing these walks with officials in neighborhoods throughout the city. Wednesday he gathered local officers along with the area top cop Lt. Jason Rentkowitz , Police Chief Anthony Campbell, and Assistant Chief Otoniel Reyes, along with Fire Chief John Alston Jr., who was bearing cool plastic fire helmets to distribute to the children. They all took a slow, conversational circumambulation of the public housing development Wednesday afternoon.

It was one of about half a dozen similar walks that Hunt has organized since the summer of 2017. The purpose, he said, is “community engagement and to build [positive, as opposed to negative] relationships with officers.”

After two shootings at the 127-unit development in May, property manager Julie Cossette said, the tenants called for more of a police presence.

Eastview Terrace — a development of initially 102 tidy townhouses, augmented recently by 25 more units for families displaced from Farnam Townhouses — once had its own dedicated full-time walking beat.

But staffing changes, along with the geographical challenge of this long, meandering policing district stretching from the North Haven border down to Morris Cove, have resulted in officers these days patrolling mostly in their cars. Beat Officer Brandon Way said officers try to have a regular presence there when possible by parking visibly while talking care of paperwork or other business.

Bearing modest kids’ toys and keychains, Hunt led the way on the walk along with Rentkowitz, who distributed fact sheets on tips to keep your car from being stolen and “munchkin deployment kits.” The latter were boxes of meatball-sized donuts the officers had purchased at Dunkin Donuts. The group set out greeting the many young kids playing on the green lawns and adults perched on chairs on their porches.

Spreading out over the rolling hills of the development, the officers went to homes where they spotted potential beneficiaries of their engagement and charm tour.

For example, Fair Haven District Manager Lt. David Zannelli greeted a little kid and the adults around her, squatted down and gave her a toy. “Thanks for saying, ‘Hi,’” he said. He urged her and the gaggle of kids around her not to be afraid of officers.

Nearby Chiefs Campbell and Reyes got a warm greeting from mom Keva Suggs, who was minding her 1-year-old Pleshette. She praised the Youth Police Initiative Program in which her now 18-year-old son Kevaughn once participated. “This is good,” she said of the visit of the officers. Residents “used to be scared, but not now.”

Suggs told the officers that Kevaughn had just graduated from Hillhouse High School. She praised the police youth program staff staying in touch with her son, checking in over the years. Then she commiserated, albeit joyfully, about the challenge of raising boys.

“Tell me about it,” said Chief Campbell. “I have three of them.”

As the serpentine line of officials made their way through the development, Fire Chief Alston became a bit of a star. Kids zoomed over on their bikes when they saw he was distributing the fire helmets, of different colors, to the kids.

He also bore swag for seniors: nifty rulers, which tell you proper temperatures to cook meals while helping seniors avoid burns in dealing with their ovens.

“Most of the calls we get from seniors are falls and then oven burns,” he said. “They sometimes forget to use the oven mitt or it becomes wet and loses its insulation,” he said. Thus the ruler could help you pull out the rack, if you attached the grooved end of the ruler to it, without causing harm.

The rulers were definitely cool. They did not compete in popularity with the fire caps.

The high point of the tour, at least for the kids, was when the promenade circled back toward the community house, where it had begun. There, as Lts. Zannelli and O’Neill rediscovered their frisbee-throwing talents, Lt. Minardi gave the kids a chance to sit in the driver’s seat of his cruiser and try out the devices.

Suddenly, a booming voice emnated from the car and sounded across the whole development: “Pull over, pull your vehicle over.”

Everyone, particularly the officers, stopped their frisbee playing and other fun. Then they laughed. “Yes, they can be in the front seat,” said O’Neill. “That’s the only time we want to see them” in cruisers.

Hunt estimated that the officers interacted with about 25 residents during their tour of Eastview Terrace and he pronounced it a “good event.”

Before the officers set off to meet residents, they were introduced by Eastview Tenant Resident Council President, Laura Harrell, who has lived in the complex for 11 years.  “This time we’re doing it not because we’ve lost a soul, but so we don’t lose a soul,” Harrell said.

Next up on Hunt’s busy schedule is a July 18,community walk through the Hill North neighborhood. It is set to begin at 4 p.m. at the police substation at Hallock and Congress near the John Daniels School.

Tags: , , ,

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry

Comments

posted by: Ashlee97 on June 28, 2018  11:52am

We need events like this in more communities. Especially with everything happening right now. It is important to show kids not to fear the cops. Most of the time, they are here to protect us and they mean no harm. Of course there are some bad cops. But that shouldn’t make us scared of every cop. Some really do want to help out. It is important to come together as a community.

posted by: FeelingBlue on June 28, 2018  12:36pm

Mr. Hunt and the ever-faithful Lt. Minardi are shining examples of what is right, what can be right in our neighborhoods and in our New Haven. Mr. Hunt is the future of service to the community: he is engaged, compassionate, street-savvy and smart. Lt. Minardi is a reminder of what a real Police Officer can be: professional, pro-active, restrained, engaging, tireless, a true protector of ALL citizens in his District and the City.  Bravo, kufos to them both. Go New Haven!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 28, 2018  3:32pm

posted by: Ashlee97 on June 28, 2018 12:52pm
Of course there are some bad cops. But that shouldn’t make us scared of every cop. Some really do want to help out. It is important to come together as a community.

If they want to help.They should help turn the Bad one’s in like FRANK SERPICO did.

The Police Are Still Out of Control
I should know.

Fire Chief Alston became a bit of a star. Kids zoomed over on their bikes when they saw he was distributing the fire helmets, of different colors, to the kids.

Oakland Residents Reported a Black Firefighter for Doing His Job

By FRANK SERPICO October 23, 2014

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/10/the-police-are-still-out-of-control-112160

Suddenly, a booming voice emnated from the car and sounded across the whole development: “Pull over, pull your vehicle over.”

We people of color Know that sound very well and what comes next.

VIDEO: Heartbreaking clip shows Chicago police handcuffing 10-year-old boy saying he fit the description

Authorities have confirmed to WMAQ-TV in Chicago that unfortunately an innocent fourth-grade boy, Michael Thomas Jr., was handcuffed by officers outside his grandmother’s home, then pushed up against the hood of a squad car as police questioned him about possessing a firearm.

https://thegrio.com/2018/06/07/video-heartbreaking-clip-shows-chicago-police-handcuffing-10-year-old-boy-saying-he-fit-the-description/

‘We Only Kill Black People,’ Police Officer Says During Traffic Stop

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/31/us/black-kill-police-georgia.html
Fire Chief Alston became a bit of a star. Kids zoomed over on their bikes when they saw he was distributing the fire helmets, of different colors, to the kids.

Hey Chief Alston.They even call the police on Firefighters.

Oakland Residents Reported a Black Firefighter for Doing His Job

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/26/us/oakland-black-firefighter-bias.html

posted by: challenge on June 29, 2018  11:41am

Another nice photo op for NHPD. Keep them coming. It’s great entertainment. I’m with Three Fifths. Good cops turn bad ones in and leadership removes them from the department. Until police are held accountable for rogue behavior this department will be seen for what it is outside the cameras. One good cop with good intentions is not going to erase the fear these children internalize from their experiences when cameras are not around.

posted by: elmcitybornandraised on June 29, 2018  4:13pm

Too many of you on the Independent comments section DO NOT…I repeat DO NOT speak for New Haven residents. You are entitled to your opinion but stop with the rogue cop talk, just stop it. I grew up on Edgewood near Kensington then my family moved to Dwight Street. There were many beat cops I encountered and so many of them were cool as hell. I remember some attempting to play ball with us at the courts located right off of Chapel near Emmanuel Baptist Church. You’re ALWAYS going to have “bad apples”, but to sit online and whine about “good cops” turning in bad cops is just plain white noise. I never hear anyone complain about how many horrible police candidates are approved (final approval by the way) by the Board of Police Commissioners (BOPC for short), then when those same cops (given the thumbs up by the BOPC) become “bad apples” all of a sudden it’s the good cops fault? Stop the insanity. What about ACCOUNTABILITY by all???? What about a better process for making the bad cops responsible. Stop pushing the narrative that good cops are the solve all, that’s not fair and it’s ridiculous to those hard working men and women. Oh and btw, we have one of the most diverse Police Departments in this country, literally. Not to mention there are loads of great officers that are New Haven born and raised. Stop your silly liberal narrative of pointing the finger…..it’s turning my stomach and many others.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 29, 2018  8:21pm

posted by: elmcitybornandraised on June 29, 2018 5:13pm
Too many of you on the Independent comments section DO NOT…I repeat DO NOT speak for New Haven residents. You are entitled to your opinion but stop with the rogue cop talk, just stop it. I grew up on Edgewood near Kensington then my family moved to Dwight Street. There were many beat cops I encountered and so many of them were cool as hell. I remember some attempting to play ball with us at the courts located right off of Chapel near Emmanuel Baptist Church. You’re ALWAYS going to have “bad apples”, but to sit online and whine about “good cops” turning in bad cops is just plain white noise

You must have not seen the movie base on FRANK SERPICO.So sound to me Are for the Blue wall of silence?In fact it is the good Cops duty to report police misconduct by those bad apples.

I never hear anyone complain about how many horrible police candidates are approved (final approval by the way) by the Board of Police Commissioners (BOPC for short), then when those same cops (given the thumbs up by the BOPC) become “bad apples” all of a sudden it’s the good cops fault?

We the people did complain and it fall on deaf ears.Where was you at to complain about this Rehiring.Care to read this.

Controversial Cop’s Controversial Cop’s Rehiring OK’d OK’d

https://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/conklin/

Part One

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 29, 2018  8:36pm

Part Two.

What about ACCOUNTABILITY by all???? What about a better process for making the bad cops responsible. Stop pushing the narrative that good cops are the solve all, that’s not fair and it’s ridiculous to those hard working men and women.

The reason why it starts with the good cops they Knew who the Bad one’s are.

Oh and btw, we have one of the most diverse Police Departments in this country, literally. Not to mention there are loads of great officers that are New Haven born and raised. Stop your silly liberal narrative of pointing the finger…..it’s turning my stomach and many others.

Oh BTW we just find a this.

Cop Background-Check Reports Falsified

https://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/cop_background_check_reports_falsified/

Police Probe Widens; Officer Gives His Side

https://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/background-check_fabrication_/

You want to bet that the good cops knew about this.

‘It’s Time for Good Cops to Do Something About Bad Cops’

What do law-and-order conservatives propose to do about abusive policing?

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/its-time-for-good-cops-to-do-something-about-bad-cops/396890/

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 29, 2018  10:09pm

Born and Raised,

I remember the early days of community policing as well—when beat cops were present, visible, and engaged in the community around them. 

Kensington was one of the most dangerous drug corridors in the northeast at that point….

I also remember the demise of community policing. 
I also remember the revival of what I can only call ‘community policing lite’.

Yes there are good cops and bad cops. 
Yes, they system protects them both. 

Yes, the system is ultimately to blame, but that system is made up of COPS!

Where is the Civilian Review Board? 

Walking the Community Walk on a nice Summer day is one thing—-
Transparency and Accountability in ‘real time’ is something completely different.

posted by: challenge on June 30, 2018  10:12am

I have a challenge for “born and raised”. Is it possible YOUR experience is the one that doesn’t speak for New Haven residents? Also stating that New Haven has the most diverse staff says little since diversity has broadened its meaning. I DO agree that the lack of accountability goes far beyond “good cops” turning in “bad cops” and yet if each level did their part there would be less problem officers on the force.