Attendees hold hands Saturday during an opening prayer led by Gregory Sanders at Why'd You Stop Me's "Power of Partnerships in Community Policing" event. Beside being the board's vice president, Sanders is also the senior pastor at The Rock Christian Church in Long Beach. Photos by Michaela Kwoka-Coleman.
Event + reaction = outcome.
This was the formula reiterated at Saturday afternoon’s “The Power Of Partnership Through Community Policing” event at the Packard, just north of downtown Long Beach, presented by Why’d You Stop Me (WYSM).
The sold-out event, attended by people from across the country, featured multimedia presentations and live roleplaying activities aimed at helping the community better understand police procedures and safety protocols.
WYSM, a nonprofit founded in 2014 by Long Beach Police Officer Jason Lehman, aims to strengthen the ties between the police and community, so that the two groups can better understand each other.
Lehman explained that the formula, “event + reaction = outcome,” is one of the most important things to remember when being stopped or questioned by a police officer. Essentially, no matter the event, a positive reaction yields a positive outcome; similarly, a negative reaction yields a negative outcome.
He also talked about how social media affects the perceptions the community and police have of each other.
Lehman and other WYSM board members emphasized that a short video on Facebook doesn’t tell the whole story of a police encounter.
What happens before and after a seconds-long video clip usually gives more context to the situation, Lehman said. However, those crucial moments are rarely seen by the public.
Gregory Sanders, board vice president of Why'd You Top Me, addresses attendees at the beginning of the "Power of Partnerships in Community Policing" event. Saturday's event featured special guest speaker police officer Tommy Norman of the North Little Rock Police Department.
Gregory Sanders, board vice president of WYSM and senior pastor of the Rock Christian Church, appealed to police officers to connect with the community, in order to better understand the people they’re supposed to protect.
“We don’t care that you have mace or a taser,” Sanders said. “What we care about, is that you can’t not come on the job with bias.”
Lehman said that the bias both sides have of each other comes down to an unequal level of education regarding police and safety procedures. Through events such as WYSM, Lehman said he hopes to empower both sides of contact, potentially de-escalating future encounters.
North Little Rock Police Officer Tommy Norman posses for a photo with an attendee following Saturday's event. Norman has a strong social media presence, posting videos and photos of his community policing efforts.
Saturday’s program also featured a special guest, Tommy Norman of the North Little Rock Police Department. Norman, who joined the police force in 1998, said that the most important part of being a police officer is building and maintaining relationships within the community.
Starting as a child, Norman said he always had a strong desire to serve others. After joining the police force, Norman took that desire and applied it to the community he served.
Whether it’s attending activities at the local chapter of the Boys and Girls Club or visiting elderly community members, Norman knows the importance and value of having daily interactions with the community he serves.
“As a police officer I think it’s really important that your badge have a heart beat, not an ego,” he said.
Thanks to his strong social media presence, Norman and his community policing has gained national recognition and has even been featured on CNN and the Today Show.
Together, Norman and Lehman have been expanding their social media presence under the hashtag #TwoBaldCops.