Like few areas in Northeast Ohio, Cleveland Heights has a unique community that thrives on being pedestrian. Warmer temperatures mean larger crowds eager to enjoy the good weather in and around the more popular areas of the city. Along with them also come the men and women of the Cleveland Heights police department. As quaint of an area as Heights is, large crowds and warm temperatures also mean more occurrences of merriment gone awry.
Along with their recently added bike patrol, Cleveland Heights officers are taking to the streets to patrol on foot. Most noted is their visibility at the Cedar/Taylor area, Lee Road and Coventry areas. While Cleveland Heights’ community outreach program, “Meet Your Police” has been implemented since March, officers who mix and mingle in the communities they serve allow for immediate interaction with residents. In their vehicles, officers are disconnected from citizens Their faces are invisible. Approaching their squad cars, even for a valid necessity, feels intrusive. Officers on foot are visible and within ear shot of trouble or disturbances. Their personalities come from behind the badge. They naturally blend into pedestrian traffic and crowds. Their presence puts a face to the institution they represent and opens up avenues that serve as catalysts to strengthen community relationships.
Residents expressed positive responses at the visibility of CHPD by monitoring neighborhoods on foot. “They don’t seem as threatening,” was the opinion offered from a group of minors milling around The Grog Shop Sunday afternoon when I asked about their level of comfort around police officers.
This reflects the mindset of two officers who were gracious enough to spend their break-time speaking about their roles as Cleveland Heights officers. These two officers in the bike patrol unit were enjoying their break at the Coventry road Chipotle as they expressed their pleasure with moving from behind the shield of the police car. They desired to get to know the people they are sworn to protect. They spoke of a young boy’s birthday party and how he had proudly displayed his bicycling skills to the unit. They also explained how a simple acknowledgment melted away barriers of distrust with a group of young men on the basketball courts. They mentioned that as they ride their beat, they receive ‘high fives’ and ‘thumbs up’.They expressed appreciation for having positive interaction with the community and being able to show citizens the other side of the badge, where there is often humor and understanding.
While we are all familiar with the green and white squad cars of the CHPD – and some of us, too familiar with the parking tickets that are written by those who occupy them – summer indeed looks to be a more enjoyable experience by benefiting from a department that acknowledges that safety and a little bit of good PR can be a positive combination for us all.