In an ever-connected digital world, members of the Community Action Team of the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office want to develop personal relationships with the communities they serve.
GCSO’s Community Action Team, which comprises deputies with at least four years on the force, is central to carrying out community-outreach projects, Lt. Robert Whatley said.
The team works on a mix of long- and short-term projects, according to Whatley. Members have previously delivered coats for the Coats for Cops, in which coats were purchased for underprivileged children at several elementary schools. In addition to that program, members participated in a pumpkin carving program at Welcome Elementary.
“A lady from Welcome Elementary said that the kindergarteners had this pumpkin carving every year,” Whatley said. “It is supposed to be a parent-assisted event. There’s a lot of children who don’t have parents who can show up. We as a unit volunteered as substitute adults.”
This deputies also participate in a program in partnership with Greenville County Schools. Adopt-a-Class, places one deputy in a classroom in one of 12 elementary or middle schools. Each participating deputy goes into his or her assigned class once a month for around an hour for a range of activities, from playing games with the students to reading to them, or just having a conversation with them.
The program “allows kids to interact with us as a person instead of an officer by interacting with them in a classroom setting,” Master Deputy Adrian Allen explained. “They see (being around us) from more of a fun perspective than us being called to their residence to deal with an incident.”
The primary goal of the program is to allow the deputies to have positive interactions with the children in the classrooms and to let students see each deputy as a regular person instead of the uniform, Whatley said.
In addition to working within the schools, this team will launch monthly combined community meetings in both the South and West Greenville communities, which will start in January 2020. The South Greenville meetings will be held in partnership with the Upstate Circle of Friends, while the West Greenville meetings will be held at Carolina High School with leaders from the Welcome, Dunean and Judson communities.
Team members hope that getting the communities together will allow them to learn from each other ways to solve common issues. They also hope to use the meetings as a source to allow the deputies to learn about any problems the community is experiencing and to help build relationships with the residents.
“Combined meetings help with information flow,” Deputy Chris Robinson said. “Our criminals don’t have borders. If we don’t know about an issue, we can’t do anything about it. That’s why we like to build these relationships with our communities because they will tell us what’s going on.”
By utilizing these different programs, member of the Community Action Team view themselves as a proactive unit because they are actively engaging with the community.
“Most units in the Sheriff’s office are what we like to call reactive-driven,” said Master Deputy Jessie “Possum” Arrowood. “I like to think of our unit as a proactive unit because it’s not all about writing violations. If we need to write violations or take a criminal action, we can do that. We’re here to prevent that and we do that by doing proactive stuff.”
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