There is an old saying that it is too late to close the barn door when the horse is out. So with our community we need to make sure we are ahead of any crises that may come our way. We are blessed with a great relationship between our law enforcement agencies and the community they serve. But we cannot assume that it will always stay that way. Playing on the old saying about closing the door before the horse escapes, we as a community need to make sure we build on that positive relationship between the police and the public.
Yesterday a group of concerned citizens held a Fall Festival at Legion Field to help build unity in our community. This spirit continues tomorrow as our police department sponsors the annual Halloween “Scare on the Square.” The effort is led this year by Lt. Chuck Grover. You and your children are invited to come to the Square to “Trick or Treat” between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
This is the sixth year that the Covington Police Department (CPD) have been sponsoring the event. It started when the First Baptist Church, who had sponsored a “Trick or Trunk” event on the square for several years, realized the demand had out grown their ability to keep sponsoring the event. They turned to then City Manager Steve Horton for help. Steve in turn turned to Chief Stacy Cotton and the CPD to see what they could do. They responded and have done so each year since.
The event will be offered again this year for those looking for a safer way to “Trick or Treat” than going door-to-door. The Square and one block in all directions will be closed to traffic. Though it is hard to get an exact count, about 3,000 people are expected again this year. There will also be a hay ride a block from the Square. Berry Tree Farm will furnish the tractor and wagon for the hay ride.
Around the Square you will find hot dogs, snow cones and cotton candy. And of course a lot of candy for those who have come to “trick or treat.” Joining with the women and men of CPD will be police from Oxford, fire fighters from Newton County and Covington, as well deputies from the Newton County Sheriff’s Office. Leading the effort again this year, as last year, will be Lt. Chuck Grover.
The funding for “Scare on the Square” is from some of the money raised at the annual Fuzz Run. The run sponsored by CPD is the largest participatory event held each year in Covington.
Other funds raised from the Fuzz Run are vital to the “Shop with a Cop” that reaches out to some 30 children at Christmas. An officer goes with a child to shop for about $100 of gifts for Christmas. The truth is that many will run over a little, and the officers usually reach into their own pockets to make up the difference.
Another way the CPD helps build bridges with the community comes from the major use of the funds raised at the Fuzz Run. Through the “Police Who Care Program” each member of the police department has access to funds to help someone who has an emergency, needs such as needing a meal, a place to stay or to help repair a car that has broken down. Each act of kindness helps build a bridge between those who are community members and those who wear the badge.
Another way the CPD reaches out to the community is the Explorer Program. This program involves about 20 youth in leadership training that learns about police work and helps with such community events as the Christmas Parade and the Fourth of July.
As important as these community outreach programs are to the community and its police force, the most important part of the bond between the community and police, is the highly professional manner in which our police go about their work. The standards set by the leadership of CPD are high and are met each day by all who serve as a part of CPD.
How the CPD first got involved in the “Scare on the Square” is a great example of how they interact with the community. There was a need, and when they were called upon to answer the need, they responded. And proudly they have continued this tradition to help children have a safe alternative on Halloween for the tradition “Trick or Treating.” The bond of trust has built this kind of willingness to serve.
Let us as a community respond to this spirit of service with our support and respect of those who serve our community.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.