CHESHIRE — Chief Constable Neil Dryfe is always looking for ways to build trust between his department and the community.
Like many police department chiefs across the country, he believes the double whammy of the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis have eroded the openness and mutual respect that should exist. between citizens and the agents responsible for protecting them.
“These have been difficult years for the police and the communities we serve,” Dryfe said.
Officers have been forced to do some of their duties in recent years via cellphones or while wearing face masks and Dryfe believes the measures “have limited our ability to be accessible in the community to some extent.”
To help restore relations, Dryfe asked Sgt. Tracy Gonzalez to organize events that would allow residents, especially young people, to interact with officers in a more relaxed setting. It was something that both Dryfe and Gonzalez felt was necessary “in order to strengthen the bonds and bonds,” Dryfe said.
To that end, the department will participate in the National Faith & Blue Weekend, beginning Friday and continuing through Monday. The whole community is invited to attend various events organized by Gonzalez with local groups.
The first day will feature “Story Time with a Cop”, where officers will read to children, and “Creating a Wreath”, a craft program. Both will be held at the White Oak Baptist Church at 120 Main Street from 5-7 p.m. Proceeds from the wreath making activity will go to Books to the Rescue.
“Cheshire police carry these books in their vehicles and they can distribute them to children in crisis,” Gonzalez said.
On Saturday, Bingo Night will be held at Saint Bridget of Sweden Parish, 175 Main St., from 6-8 p.m.
On Sunday evening there will be a prayer vigil at the Franciscan Life Center located at 271 Finch Ave. in Meriden, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Monday’s event is a kid-friendly coffee and refreshment session taking place at the Cavalry Life Family Worship Center at 174 East Johnson Ave., from 10 a.m. to noon.
Faith & Blue is a national coalition made up of more than 1,600 faith-based organizations and more than 750 local law enforcement partners, according to its website. Its primary partners include dozens of federal, state and county law enforcement agencies as well as several religious organizations. Dryfe, in his role as president of the Connecticut Association of Chiefs of Police, has been a leader in Connecticut’s move toward participation.
Faith & Blue came into existence in 2020, in part through support from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community-Oriented Policing and in part through the advocacy work of Movement Forward, an Atlanta-based group founded by the Reverend Markel Hutchins. The group’s mission is “to complete the work of building the ‘Beloved Community’ envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by providing innovative, inclusive and solution-oriented advocacy through another generation of health workers. change who are committed to peace, a non-violent tradition of social activism.
Neither Dryfe nor Gonzalez claim to be particularly religious, but both agreed that faith is essential to a career in policing.
“It’s not necessarily God. You have to believe in something to do this job,” Gonzalez said, “be it just in yourself, doing the right thing, making a difference, helping others. Faith is really necessary for our work.
Dryfe points to the long history of religious figures who have been linked to the police department, such as chaplains attending police events, performing summoning or summoning ceremonies that give solemn meaning to the vital duty the job entails. Today, he says, traditions “run the gamut of different religions,” as departments seek to be increasingly inclusive and representative of their communities, while maintaining moral courage as a pillar of service.