Texarkana Arkansas Police Chief Robert Harrison has penned an open letter to the public with special thanks for the outpouring of support that our local officers have been receiving from the community, and he expresses gratitude to the men and women of TAPD that protect and serve us all.
Letter from Chief Harrison:
Dear citizens of Texarkana,
It is with heartfelt sincerity that I address you on the recent outpouring of community support that we have received for the men and women of the Texarkana Arkansas Police Department.
I cannot remember a time such as now that law enforcement has seen such dark times in the law enforcement profession as we are experiencing all over the country. These are very dangerous times for my fellow brothers and sisters who serve on the Thin Blue Line and I am greatly concerned for the future of Law Enforcement and safety of each one of them.
I can, however, tell you that the recent outpouring of love and support from our citizens here at home is overwhelming and greatly appreciated. We have been showered with food, love, and appreciation like I have never seen and I cannot thank you all enough for your response. Knowing that you value our service is invaluable to our officer’s morale. Our patrol officers on the street have informed me that many times during their shift they are approached by residents who shake their hand and tell them that they are being prayed for, thought of, and commended for protecting and serving.
I have been asked by many citizens how they can help and what else can they do to show support for the officers. I would like to humbly offer an answer to those questions.
We must have community support for police parity pay to continue to hire and retain professional police officers. This requires a competitive salary and fringe benefit packages that help us recruit a diverse applicant pool of civilians into this very dangerous profession.
TAPD has been community oriented agency for decades and that spirit of service is something all of us take great pride in. Many of you may not know about the many community outreach programs that our officers work very hard on and donate their time to carry out every year. I want to tell you about these programs.
Cops and Kids dinner began in 1993 and is an annual event at Christmas time. Our police officers pick up the children from the Texarkana Baptist Home and Watersprings Ranch in police cars and drive with lights and sirens blazing to a local restaurant, share a meal, and give the children a small gift. This is an opportunity for the officers and children to share a lot of laughs and fellowship.
Shop with a Cop program began in 1995 and occurs every year also at Christmas. Every officer not on patrol at the time gathers at Wal-Mart. Each officer takes at least one child from a group of one hundred local children Christmas shopping with a 100 dollar allowance. Often, this is the only Christmas some of these children get and some of those children purchase gifts for siblings as well.
In 2012, the Pride Program came into being to help the youth of our community to make life long positive relationships with Police Officers. It began with the annual PRIDE Academy, is a week long program, at College Hill Middle School. One hundred and twenty five students are invited to spend an entire week with over 26 police officers learning life skills, such as confidence, community service, respect, and love for themselves, their schools, and their communities, all while building strong lasting relationships with police officers. The 5th annual Pride Academy will take place in just a few weeks!
Last year, we added the Youth to Leadership (Y2L) program that is made up entirely of teenagers of Arkansas High School, who assist us with mentoring the younger children in the community. We provide them leadership training and include them in assisting with many of our other outreach programs and events.
Most recently, in January of 2016, we began our after school mentoring program called Cool Kids (coaching our outstanding youth) at the Life House Ministry. This program is comprised past Pride Academy graduates who meet weekly with the Y2l mentors, police officers, and other community members to provide after school mentoring. The goal of this program is character building and community service projects.
In addition to our annual events and ongoing programs, we have several other youth outreach events and projects that our officers have implemented as individuals and groups on their own. One of these is the basketball park that the Alpha Squad patrol officers are working on. Which began when officers saw children playing ball in the street and were concerned because it was potentially dangerous for the kids. Alpha Squad has secured the necessary land and began construction of the park with the assistance of the entire community that park will serve.
The Konas on Patrol event is a recent fun addition to our community programs. The Kona sno-Cone truck is escorted by officers to different neighborhoods and the officers and children have sno-cones together.
Our officers frequently spend a lot of time at parks, schools, and community centers. Officers will play ball with kids, show them the police lights and siren, or simply sit and talk with the kids. Many of the officers will stop by and check on a child that they have encountered at a recent call like a motor vehicle accident or when a parent has been arrested. The officers have stickers, pencils, water bottles, bracelets, and glow sticks for the officers to give as small gifts to children who are having a difficult time.
This list doesn’t include all the times that I hear about when my officers have collected money from their shift to provide food or clothing to a family in need. This happens much more frequently than you, the citizen, or I, the Chief, know about because most of our officers do these things quietly and seek no recognition.
Earlier, I told you that I was going to offer a suggestion on how anyone in the community can show his or her support to your police officers. If you would like to help support your police officers and their programs, an account at Mil-Way Federal Credit Union called Back the Blue Account is available for a cash donation to continue our community outreach programs. The money donated in this account will only go to the programs and efforts that I have told you about to help our officers give back to the community that they love and serve.
My officers have expressed to me their heartfelt gratitude for the food and gifts you have given them recently and, as their Chief, it touches my heart. I know many of you want to do more to help. I also know how important it is for the officers to have these community programs continue and to grow and reach even more children and adults in our community. If you want to honor our police officers, I can think of no better way than helping them help others.
I am proud to lead these fine officers and I am blessed to be your Chief of Police.
Robert H. Harrison
Chief of Police