If you were to ask any law enforcement officer what one of their most important tools is, they will probably tell you it’s not just a gun or handcuffs, but a trusting relationship with the people they serve. To help garner this relationship, the University of Michigan-Flint’s Department of Public Safety (DPS), the Flint Police Department and the Flint Fire Department, among others, will be hosting Touch-A-Truck.
The event is open to the public and will be held on Saturday, Sept. 21 in the main parking lot of the William S. White Building from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Featuring big rigs, police cruisers, fire trucks and even a helicopter from the Ann Arbor Survival Flight crew, Touch-A-Truck will allow visitors to get an up-close and personal look inside these vehicles. Other activities include face painting, a bounce house and a live DJ.
It’s not just law enforcement agencies that participate either; local trucking businesses, Kettering University and clubs from UM-Flint, including Block Club and the Criminal Justice Club, all come together for the event due to their common interest in creating a safe community.
“The intent is for not only community members to come to campus and interact with law enforcement in a way they may not typically do, but also for law enforcement to get to know the community as well. So this is a two-way street,” says DPS Chief Raymond Hall.
By providing a fun environment for interaction, events like Touch-A-Truck offer a venue for community members and police to grow a positive relationship. And as trust is built between law enforcement and the community, people become more comfortable providing vital information for investigating crimes and keeping everyone safe.
However, the trust between communities and law enforcement is fragile. Due to high-profile incidents involving police brutality in recent years, there has been massive public outcry toward law enforcement. The fatal shooting of Michael Brown by an officer in 2014 and the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody in 2015 both come to mind. Many communities members have lost their confidence in the people that are supposed to protect them.
However, with events like this, DPS hopes to repair and strengthen the community’s trust in law enforcement, as Hall emphasizes its importance. “It achieves the objectives of law enforcement which is providing a quality service to the community, reducing crime and the fear of crime in the community,” said Hall.
For him, Touch-a-Truck a well as other events are crucial, and he would like to seem them occur on a regular basis. “You know better than I what we could be doing in this community to reach out and to have meaningful engagement, not just engagement to check a box because I’m not interested in doing that. We need to have positive engagement activities that are meaningful and sustainable.”