Patrolman Darren Roach gives a motorist a “One with Clovis” flier Friday afternoon as she waits for children at Parkview Elementary School. Roach and several other officers were in the area to talk to residents. (CNJ Staff Photo: Sharna Johnson)
By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer
As students prepared for dismissal at a Clovis elementary school Friday afternoon, about half a dozen police officers met across the street for their pre-shift briefing.
At the briefing’s conclusion, they spread out on foot, going to neighboring homes to talk with residents as well as parents waiting to pick up children from school.
Their presence attracted attention. Necks craned in passing cars, eyes peeked from behind curtain-veiled windows. There was little doubt residents noticed them.
“Several people were surprised we’re out,” Patrolman Darren Roach said as he headed toward a waiting vehicle outside the school’s fence, a stack of glossy fliers clutched in his hand.
With a smile on his face, Roach handed a flier to a woman in the vehicle, making an introduction and speaking with her for a moment before seeking out another vehicle down the block.
“It’s a neat feeling. You’re feeling at one with the community,” he said, moving toward an SUV pulling up to the curb.
Roach expressed the sentiment embodied in the Clovis Police Department’s recent shift to a community policing concept under the slogan “One with Clovis.”
Parkview Elementary School Principal Jennifer Whitehead said when she realized what police were doing, she was 100 percent behind it.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “We want them involved.”
Parents communicated excitement over the presence, she said.
Sgt. John Corley, a swing-shift supervisor, explained his officers chose the neighborhood because they had received reports of narcotic activity there.
“We’re trying to build a better relationship with the community,” he said. “We’ll just come out in the neighborhood and let them know we’re here.”
Contact with the public through the neighborhood-based endeavor is invaluable on multiple levels, Corley said.
“Sometimes this is the only interaction people have with the police,” he said.
It was the second time in a week a briefing was held outdoors, Corley said. The other was at the corner of 10th and Jones streets. Officers gathered and discussed dispatcher call logs from the two previous shifts, emphasizing any ongoing issues or things they need to look out for, he explained.
Outdoor briefings will not be held every day, though Corley said officers would be working to do more of them.
Residents who see the briefings are encouraged to come and listen, he said, or neighborhoods having problems can invite officers to hold briefings on their streets.
In the time the officers were out Friday, residents pointed out two homes they believed to be drug houses and gave other tidbits of information.
“They’re saying, ‘Thank God,’” Patrolman Bart Phillips said, a wide smile on his face as he approached Corley for more fliers. He had just received another tip, he said, describing a warm and grateful reception from residents.
Assigned to the eastern segment of Clovis since he joined the Clovis police department about six months ago, Patrolman Steve Cope said police become possessive of the regions they patrol, developing care and concern for the residents.
He relished the opportunity to meet residents of his neighborhoods in a relaxed scenario as opposed to meeting them only in crisis situations.
“Most people’s interaction with the police isn’t positive,” Cope said. “This will turn into productive dialog.”
Holding up his stack of fliers, he said, “These are intended to be hung on doors but I’d much rather have contact (with residents).”
Corina Romero, mother of two, lives a block from the school with her family. She said she was glad to see officers in the neighborhood, where she has lived all her life. Though she hasn’t had trouble, there are a lot of bad things that go on there, Romero said.
“I think it’s a good idea,” she said, watching her children play in the driveway.
What the fliers say:
Expressing the philosophy behind “One with Clovis,” door-hanger fliers state the police department’s mission regarding the community working with law enforcement to create a city residents can be proud of.
Listed are phone numbers for a variety of agencies in addition to several community crime prevention and education programs in which citizens can get involved.
Animal Control: 769-7893 or after hours 769-1921
Clovis Police Department non-emergency: 769-1921
Curry County Crime Stoppers: 763-7000
There were 5,000 fliers printed for the initial distribution effort, at an approximate cost of $700 to the department.