In recent weeks, demonstrations and protests across the country resulting from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have once again highlighted incidents of police brutality and increased tensions and feelings of mistrust between officers and citizens.
Grain Valley’s police department has seen the opposite type of attention from residents in recent weeks, and Grain Valley Police Chief James Beale believes his department’s focus on transparency and connecting with the community is one of the main reasons for the outpouring of love.
In recent weeks, residents have stopped by to drop off notes of support, purchased dinners, provided gift cards for officers, and delivered regular treats. One woman delivers cinnamon rolls on a weekly basis.
“It is a reflection of the type of department that we sought out to be,” Beale said.
“I know you have to be very transparent and we have to be able to connect with the community. I think that sets the tone for this department. We encourage our officers to speak to the citizens when they are out on patrol.”
“Our captains and I continue to talk with our officers about the importance of bridging the gap with the community, and they have just really taken off with it. They have gotten so creative with ways to connect, from making a point to interact with kids while on patrol, passing out Halloween candy, to formal programs,” Beale said.
“The effort that we put into this 24-person department, the way we mesh with our community is amazing. And this is our community showing us their thanks, and them letting us know ‘it’s not you’. The gifts and kind words that we get is a result of that.”
When a group reached out to Chief Beale in late May requesting permission to hold a protest to support the Black Lives Matter movement, Beale made the decision to welcome the group and use the protest as an opportunity to interact with residents and let them know he and his department understood their concerns.
“I had two choices. I could say ‘No, we don’t want that’, or I could embrace it and show the organizers that their concerns are our concerns,” Beale said.
Beale, along with Captains Hedger and Palacek, and the department’s school resource officers attended the event and talked with the group. Beale also invited a local congregation to join in the event held at Armstrong Park.
“We want to be approachable. We want our citizens to ask us questions. We like to laugh, we have emotions just like everybody else. When the community gets to know us, they understand that we are also moms, dads, sisters, and brothers. We are regular people.. When people know they can approach you, it makes our job easier and it makes them more acceptable of us.”
Even though the issues raised nationally have not directly impacted Grain Valley, the ripple effect is felt locally.
Grain Valley is similar to other departments in finding it difficult to recruit candidates for open positions. The department has had an opening for a police officer for several weeks with little to no response. Beale understands that national events have an effect on recruiting, but encourages anyone interested to consider a job in law enforcement.
“If you want to get rich, this is not the job for you. But if you care about your community and want to make a difference, it is a great career. There are so many opportunities in policing and law enforcement. You get an insight into people that the average citizen does not have. It is challenging and no day is the same. There’s nothing in this world that I would rather do,” Beale said.
And Beale emphasizes that his department’s officers are able to do their job with honor because of the relationship they have built with the community.
“We are able to hold our heads high and go out and serve our community. And that’s because the community made us feel that way. This community is what keeps us going,” Beale said.
“They are affected by the things they see in the media, and we are too. But, they know that this is not this community. And they keep us going.”