A TV crew is in town for a few days following a couple Rockford Police officers around. It’s the result of a successful program that plants police in the neighborhoods they serve. This relationship building strategy could soon have a national audience.
Rock House Officer Patrice Turner says, “absolutely, it helps people see you as a human you know, not just a cop”.
Officers Patrice Turner and Eric Thurmond are not your average police officers, they live in Rock Houses.
Officer Thurmond says, “I want to know my neighbors, know them and know their issues because their problems are my problems. If there’s something going on in this
neighborhood I need to know about it so I can fix it”.
The houses are in high crime areas chosen by the department. aiming to help build the neighbor up from the inside out.
Eric Thurmond/ Rock House Officer RPD
“They put us in a house right where the crime is happening so we can make it better”, says Officer Thurmond.
Officer Turner continues, “Police office could actually be embedded in the neighborhood, live in the neighborhood amungst the residents and actually become one of the residents”.
Both officers have garnered national attention for their jobs well done with HBO’s Vice News featuring their work in the community, like the ice cream social at Welsh Elementary
“I think policing was probably this way in the beginning you know years and years and years ago, every officer was a neighborhood officer, so hopefully is can become this way again, it can go full circle” says Officer Turner.
Not only are they there to help prevent crime and to provide resources to their neighbors, Officers Thurmond and Turner also want to change perceptions about law enforcement to the younger residents.
Officer Thurmond says, “Like basketballs I give basketballs and stuff like that out to get to know them and build rapport and you know things just like dancing and stuff like that just to break that barrier”
They also want to change perceptions of law enforcement parents have, especially those that may have had negative experiences with police.
“All the kids are running up to me because they know they can trust me and I’ll use that to go over to them and be like you know I’m cool, you knw your kids I’ll make sure they’re ok, if you guys need anything please feel free to contact me” says Officer Thurmond.
Nora Bennett, who was picking up her great nephews from school says, “I think it’s great that they out here most the time and teaching them and letting them know that they’re friendly and not to be afraid”.
Their efforts have made an impact, reducing the number of shootings, property damages and burglaries in their areas and in gaining neighbor’s trust helping ongoing investigations.
“They know me they feel very comfortable talking to me I’d get so much more information”, says Officer Thurmond.
Officers Turner and Thurmond have had such a positive impact on their communities the department plans on expanding the program by adding two more Rock Houses in the near future.