In recent months, most news about police has involved either the death of an officer or the death of an unarmed civilian. And while it's true that police in America have a lot to work on, it's also true that many hard-working, well-meaning cops don't get the respect and admiration they deserve from news organizations. Every day, good police officers are doing good things for the communities they serve.
One solution to many of the issues we see between cops and the neighborhoods they work alongside is something called "community policing," or assigning certain police officers to specific locales so that they become personally familiar with members of the community they serve. While community policing doesn't always work, it has been shown to increase the likelihood of positive outcomes for interactions between police and citizens.
Over the last couple years, A Plus has covered several stories that show officers going above and beyond the call of duty. Below, we've put together seven that really touched us, and we hope they can serve as a reminder of all of the good that police officers have done in their communities.
1. Wichita police joined up with the Black Lives Matter movement.
In July, not long after three police officers were killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, cops from Wichita, Kansas and Black Lives Matter activists held a joint barbecue.
The event was a chance for police officers to socialize with local families, and it ended up going swimmingly. Cops got to talk to people from the neighborhood and discuss their shared community, and everyone got to break bread together.
"The response from the Wichita community was overwhelmingly positive and encouraging," officer Charlie Davidson said in an email to A Plus. "Many stated they have spent their lives living in Wichita and had not before seen this type of transparency from the Wichita Police Department."
2. A California department's tip of the day made a difference for parents across the country.
Every day, the Clovis Police Department in California posts a tip of the day on their Facebook page. One of those tips, a recommendation about how parents can ensure swift reunions with kids who are separated from them in crowds, went viral in June.
3. Texas cops accompanied the son of a deceased officer to his first day of school.
Police officer Justin Scherlen died suddenly while on vacation with his family in New Mexico, leaving behind a wife and four children. Members of the Amarillo Police Department decided to accompany Justin's son Jackson to his first day of school in recognition of Justin's 11 years on the force.
4. Instead of tickets, Halifax cops gave out ice cream.
Want to win over a group of kids? Give them free ice cream. Want to win over adults who are old enough to drive? Well... give them free ice cream, too!
As part of an effort to try and improve police and community relations in Halifax, Virginia, officers spent one day surprising 20 drivers with ice cream cones. They even filmed a few of the encounters.
As of Tuesday, the Facebook video has received over 6.4 million views.
"That's one of the great things with police work — you get to meet people like that on a daily basis, and it makes the job worth it," Officer Brian Warner told local Virginia-based television station WSET of one of the encounters.
5. Officers around the country explained #WhyIWearTheBadge.
When many people think of cops, they think of riot gear or body armor or police cars. But a social media trend from 2015 reminded us that cops have lives outside of the work they do on duty.
After this picture of a sergeant kissing his daughter was shared widely, the hashtag #WhyIWearTheBadge surfaced in October and quickly went viral.
6. Police in Gloucester decided not to arrest drug offenders.
After facing a spate of drug overdoses, a police department in Gloucester, Massachusetts decided to stop arresting drug users and start giving them help.
The policy started in June, 2015 when the department sent out notifications that if drug users turned in drugs, paraphernalia or drug dealers, they wouldn't get in trouble. Instead, the police would help the users get treatment. By August, the department had already enrolled 100 people in drug treatment facilities, taking illegal narcotics off the street and giving people help all at once. It cost less than $5,000.
"As time goes on we will study the effectiveness of the program, but we've already accomplished one of our main goals," the department wrote on its Facebook page. "Law Enforcement can be a voice and a conduit to treatment, not incarceration. Law enforcement can be compassionate soldiers in the fight against this disease."
Since then, they've also pushed an initiative to make Narcan nasal spray — an antidote to the effect of opioids like heroin, meth, oxycontin and morphine — more available.
7. A Kentucky cop gave his all when faced with an atypical 911 call.
Barbie Henderson was driving home when she found out that her sister had died.
Overwhelmed with grief, Henderson pulled over her car and reflexively called 911. Fortunately, John Nissen, a 17-year veteran of the Hillview Police Department responded to the call.
"Out of safety, I asked if I could talk with her and see if I could get her cooled down a bit," Nissen told People. "I turned the air vents towards her – it was over 90 degrees that day – held her hand, and she cried on my shoulder. I had her take sips of water."
For more than an hour, Nissen stayed with Henderson until her other sister showed up on the scene. When her sister arrived, she was so impressed with Nissen that she took a picture of the scene and sent it to the police department.