In the midst of a national conversation about the relationship between police and the African-American community that has been punctuated by deadly acts of violence targeting police officers, a 2-year-old girl and a female Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer held a very private, heartfelt summit at a North Carolina gas station.
The meeting, captured by the girl's mother on her cell phone, illustrates the power of community policing, which seeks to build deeper and lasting ties between local police and the residents of the communities they patrol. The result can be a relationship of mutual understanding and cooperation, not just in preventing crimes, but in fostering overall community health.
Ornella Lenga-Bukasa publicly posted a video to her Facebook wall capturing the moment that her daughter Brianna met police officer Ashley Brown at a Charlotte gas station.
"I just pumped gas, and when I turned around to walk into the store I saw this little girl walking up to me," Officer Brown said in an interview with WBTV.com of the surprise encounter. "So, I just went over, kneeled down... and she hugged me and wouldn't let go." That's when Brianna's mom knew that she had to get it all on video.
But Officer Brown, who WBTV reports is the community coordinator for the department's Hickory Grove division, didn't stop there. The video shows her taking Brianna and showing her the inside of her cruiser and how the lights, horn, and loudspeaker work. At the end of their time together, Brown gives the little girl a bag of toys from her trunk.
"For Officer Ashley to welcome her and embrace her, it was just amazing," Lenga-Bukasa told FOX 46 Charlotte. "The thing that warms my heart is that she didn't have to do what she did. She could have just stopped at a hug, could've said 'Hello, how are you?'"
"We've been teaching her the importance of law enforcement and how they're supposed to be our heroes," Lenga-Bukasa told WBTV.com. "So whenever she's scared or has a problem because mommy and daddy are not always going to be there, and I want her to understand that she could always, always go to the police."
"There's so much negativity going on, it's sad," Lenga-Bukasa continued. "It's just ridiculous. So the only way to conquer negativity is to promote positivity."
We think that starting with kids is a great way to do just that.