HARTSVILLE, SC (WBTW) – Earlier this year the City of Hartsville received an All- American city award. The award is given by the National Civic League each year to ten communities in the United States. It recognizes citizens that work together to identify and tackle community-wide challenges.
One community- wide challenge is division between police officers and residents. The goal is to prevent any type of divide between officers and those who live in the neighborhoods they police. Programs in the city, like the Youth Police Academy and the Safe Communities Program work toward unifying the community of Hartsville.
“In 2013, I was in the Youth Police Academy,” said Niesha Smith, an All- American City Delegate.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I was there with two police officers. They really just showed us Hartsville,” Smith adds. “Today I am in love with Hartsville.”
To combat this problem Hartsville Police and city leaders adopted a new outreach program to bring together police officers and those within the community.
Mary Catherine Farrell, the assistant to the City Manager explains, “Something I think is unique, especially with a town of our size is this community outreach division that we’ve started with our police department.”
Two police officers, in the community outreach department study policing practices and strategies to better connect with the community.
“We now have two dedicated officers, who are working to take a look at how we police and make sure that we are implementing community policing strategies that have been proven to be the best way to police,” she explained.
The citizens of Hartsville and those that protect it want unity.
“I don’t want us to get to the point where the trust between the police is so broken.” Farrell adds, “This division is working to make sure that we are one with the community, that it is not an us versus them situation.”
The newest outreach program is the Hartsville Safe Communities program.
“We work with notified offenders, to help turn their lives around,” said police Lieutenant Richardson, Community Outreach Lieutenant of the Hartsville police department.
“We want them to do better in the community and in doing that. That bridges that gap between the police and the community,” Lt. Richardson adds.
Organizers say programs like this… promote unity.
Lt. Richardson said, “Hopefully, and I know they will they will, take the opportunity and run with it.”
“Working to have programs like the police youth academy, to engage youth and make sure that there is that positive relationship between police and children from a very early age. Or just being present in the community.” Farrell adds.
Hartsville Police department is using the program…to bring the community together.