GONZALES — Officers from Gonzales Police Department spent time with local youth at the recently reopened skate park last week, but beyond just taking time to chat with the youngsters, they also surprised them with free skateboards, helmets and masks.
Sgt. Santiago Melgoza, Officer Nathan Cordoba, Community Service Officer Ulyses Fierros and Chief Keith Wise engaged and connected with the youth to discuss skate park safety and Covid-19 topics, such as maintaining social distancing, wearing face coverings and frequent hand washing.
“The officers and I are always looking for opportunities to engage with our community, and when we see an opportunity, we are quick to make it happen,” Wise said.
The June 17 surprise skating time was unplanned, and more of a pop-up event.
“We have held many planned community engagement events in the recent past, most can be seen on our PD Facebook page,” Wise said.
During the multi-month skate park closure caused by Covid-19, Wise said he was frequently contacted by children who asked when the park would reopen.
“I felt bad for the kids, and I wanted to do something special for them,” he said.
On the third day of the park being reopened, Wise said he reached into his wallet and purchased five skateboards to give out as a surprise. The officers distributed those boards, along with helmets and what Wise described as “cool police swag,” in addition to the face masks.
“It was great being able to see all their smiles and officers having the opportunity to connect, hang out and talk with them,” Wise said.
The opportunity to connect with the community is something Wise said is important for officers in order to better serve the city.
“Community engagement opportunities such as this allow officers and community members to engage on a different community level opposed to an enforcement incident or call for help event,” Wise said.
Community policing is something officers do as part of their duties in Gonzales, Wise explained, which includes such activity as chatting with residents.
“Officers and staff engage with the community and have conversations with them about non-general things,” he said. “We build trust between the officers and community and keep open communication. By doing so, at the end of the day, it makes for a safer community for everyone, because we all work together and help one another out.”
Wise said he encourages everyone to view the Gonzales Police Department Facebook page for a more in-depth look at their community policing.
“It’s about serving, caring and connecting,” he said. “It’s the Gonzales Way of policing.”