In the past few months our nation has struggled with issues between those who protect and serve us in law enforcement and those segments of the population that feel oppressed. We are blessed here in Covington with a police department, under the leadership of Police Chief Stacy Cotton, which is held in high esteem by the community. The challenge is how do we build on that relationship and make it even stronger. The time to act is before the crisis occurs.
Around the first of the year the Covington City Council and the Mayor of Covington, in response to some in our community, created a “blue ribbon” committee to look into if we needed a Citizen Review Committee concerning the work of the police. The members of the committee reflected the entire community. The committee came back with the conclusion that we did not need such a review committee. The committee deemed that there were plenty of checks and balances within our law enforcement community to assure that any question could be fairly dealt with. But the challenge remains, how can we build on the trust between the community and police.
When there is a need to call 911, or when one is pulled over by the police, there should be confidence that the situation will be dealt with a just and professional manner. There is also the need for those who wear the badge to know they have their community behind them. This calls for trust and communications by all in the community. I feel we have that in Covington, but how do we assure that such mutual respect will continue?
When the horrible assassination of the police officers occurred in Dallas Texas, some wanted to make sure that would not happen here. Of course, there can be no guarantees that such evil cannot occur anywhere, but we can create a “climate” that will encourage a positive relationship between the community and the police. A Covington Citizen, Jason Mast called Josh McKelvey, a member of the Covington City Council, and asked what he could do to get involved.
This question, and other conversations led us to a movement called Community United. The first event sponsored by this new movement will occur on Saturday, Oct. 28, at Legion Field. It is a festival that starts at 11 a.m. and will run until 7 p.m. It is free and open to all. The festival starts with a cookout of hot dogs, chips, and drinks. There will be music from some local bands, face painting, raffles, and activities. Over thirty vendors have registered to offer a variety of food as well as some craft items.
There will be large screen TV’s to keep up with the games on the Oct. 28. The feature will be the annual battle in Jacksonville between the Gators and the Dawgs. Making brief appearances to talk about Community Unity will be Cotton, Johnston and a spokesman of the Newton County School System.
Community in Unity says they exist to bring our community together.
“Our main goal is to bring our community together and strengthen relationships as well as building new ones.”
The organizers also seek to strengthen the bond between the community and the police.
They hope to put a spotlight on the police officers and first responders so that the community can see just how valuable they are to all of us.
You are invited to come spend a fun Saturday at Legion Field on the 29th as we bring a sense of unity to our community. On their website the group quotes Mother Teresa, “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; Together we can do great things.”
This Festival is just one part of strengthening the bridges that bring police and community together. Mark your calendar for Scare on the Square on Halloween. Next week we will talk more about this event as well as some of the ways the Police Department shows they care about our community all year long.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.