“I’m proud to have you as part of my family. “
That was the tone and the message shared by Superintendent-in-Chief William Gross of the Boston Police Department as he addressed the audience at the 15th Anniversary Meeting for LP Magazine in Sanibel Island, Florida on Wednesday.
The first African-American chief in the history of the Boston Police Department, Gross shared his personal story as a police officer, and how the department has worked with the community—often those in depressed areas who have historically maintained a conflicted relationship with the police—to create a winning culture and a strong, positive relationship between the community and the police department.
Gross talked about the department sending ice cream trucks with free ice cream into depressed neighborhoods, community policing partnerships, licensed clinical social workers, peace walks, “shop with a cop” events, and “Father Clint Eastwood” into the community to strengthen the relationships and bridge the gap between police officers and the community.
He discussed “cadet” programs that bring young men and women into the police academy to help build a more positive impression of the police and what they do, and the impact that the program has had on those that have participated. He boasted of an officer that helped compile a “black history book” that was distributed in city neighborhoods… Every program and every approach discussed emphasized “The voices of logic versus the ignorance of destruction”, and how these innovations and attitudes have improved relationships throughout the city of Boston.
But Gross also brought a similar message to the members of the audience at the LP Magazine meeting, providing several examples underscoring the power of cooperation between the retail community and the police department.
For example, many of us are aware that retail surveillance cameras helped to identify the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. But Gross further revealed of the outpouring of support from Target corporation in the form of batteries, flashlights, medical supplies, water, food, Gatorade, and “anything we needed” to support police and first responder efforts both during and following the tragic event. He touted the Macy’s “Unity in the Community” program in the city, and how Burger King surveillance cameras helped support police in the wake of another dangerous crime. He stressed some of the different ways that all of us can get involved and make a difference when we work together.
In a time when our nation is facing a wave of tragic incidents and civil unrest, it energized the audience to hear progressive, proactive, and productive solutions to real problems. Rather than finger-pointing and excuses, we heard real stories of unity, action—and hope. Gross and the Boston Police Department have provided a map for how the retail community can get involved, how we’ve successfully contributed in the past, and how we can make a difference moving forward.
To satisfy the cynics looking to poke holes in a positive message, we can agree that not every problem can be solved with ice cream or Clint Eastwood. But efforts and attitude can lead to positive change. We need both innovation and cooperation to help us move forward, and the programs in Boston are definitely a step in the right direction.