In less than a month, Cleveland Heights residents will have an opportunity to meet with police personnel every Thursday evening.
is launching the “Meet Your Police” program starting March 10 at 6 p.m. in the .
Now retired Chief Martin Lentz discussed the informal meeting idea with City Council, and turned it over to , Robertson said.
“They can report anything to us, and we have the ability to talk one-on-one with residents. And if it’s not a police matter, we can steer them in the right direction,” he said. “We want to have closer contact with the public. If there is a problem out there, we want them to tell us so we can take care of it.”
Council member Mark Tumeo said the idea was an outgrowth of a pilot program that started in 2009. Tumeo worked with a community group from the Oxford Neighborhood to launch the Oxford Community Liaison Pilot Project. A member from the group met with police weekly or biweekly, then shared what was discussed at the meeting with the group.
Tumeo said the project was about six months long, and they reviewed what questions were asked, what was effective and how they would put a program together. People wanted to know how investigations were progressing and what was happening in their neighborhoods.
By interacting with police officers, community members will realize the department is there to help them, Tumeo said.
"A lot of people, and especially our youth, are coming up in a culture where police are not your friends. We believe if they meet police officers and understand they are the good guys, and there is a human face on the police force, that will help," Tumeo said. "They do a fabulous job of protecting us, and we need to see them as our friends, not our opponents."
People can voice concerns about their neighborhood, or just bring in their children to meet an officer, Robertson said.
“It’s going to be a good way for the public to come in and meet us in a non-law enforcement atmosphere,” he said. “It’s going to be very informal, and not all about problems and complaints. It’s information gathering.”
Robertson will be at the first meeting with Capt. Brad Sudyk and the coordinator of the program, Sgt. Christopher Britton, he said. Two to three officers will rotate each week to start, and they’ll stay for about two hours, depending on demand.
“It’s all based on community input. If the community responds and comes in, that’s great. The more they come in and talk to us the better,” Robertson said. “It’s not a structured meeting where we lecture people. People can come in and ask a police officer questions directly, one-on-one.”