Building Public Trust Between the Police and the Community with Local Events


It’s an unfortunate truth that often, people in a community feel a sense of distrust for the very people whose job it is to protect them: the police.

Building public trust is one of the most important tasks a police department can undertake. Not only does the support and trust of the community make the job more pleasant, it also makes it easier, because people who feel a positive connection to their local police force are more likely to obey the law and be quicker to come forward with information when others break it.

Here are some ideas you can use to engage with the community and build a strong relationship between your police department and local citizens.

After-School Sports: Playing sports together is one of the easiest ways to forge a bond, and police departments across the nation have youth sports programs that let local kids play sports with members of the police to build ties and strengthen relationships with the community. Examples include Detroit’s Team Up, New York’s Police Athletic League, and several programs developed through a partnership between Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), the NBA, and local police departments.

Block Parties: Block parties are a popular way for the residents of a neighborhood to socialize and get to know each other, and many departments hold them to give members of the community a chance to meet and mingle with their local police.

Charity Events: Many police departments partner with local charities to hold fundraisers that not only raise money for important causes, they give police officers a chance to interact with local citizens and show how much they care about their communities. Examples include a Stuff-A-Cruiser toy or food drive, a Penguin Plunge, a talent show, and a Tip-A-Cop event where police officers act as servers at a local restaurant and donate all tips to charity.

Coffee with a Cop: The idea of letting locals get to know police officers over a friendly cup of coffee started in California in 2011, and the Coffee with a Cop program now holds events in all 50 states and across the world. For more information, visit

National Night Out: National Night Out is a national campaign that aims to improve the relationship between communities and law enforcement. It was started in 1984 and is now celebrated by thousands of communities in all 50 states. It takes place on the first Tuesday in August and can include block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts, safety demonstrations, youth events, exhibits, and more. Visit the National Night Out website for more information or to register your department

Shop with a Cop: Also called Santa with a Badge and typically held around the holidays, a Shop with a Cop event is a great way for police officers to connect with needy kids in their communities. The event pairs children from families with financial  hardships with local officers, who take them shopping at a local retailer or mall.

Skate with a Cop: Skate with a cop events have been held by dozens of departments, and can include everything from an informal event at the local ice skating or roller rink to a charity event to hanging with the skater kids at the local skate park.

Youth Mentoring: Every community has kids that are in need of a positive role model. Departments all over the country have their own mentoring programs, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America also offers Bigs in Blue or Bigs with Badges, a national one-on-one mentoring program that pairs teenagers with police officers as a way of providing guidance, mentoring and support and establishing a positive relationship between teens and police.

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