Tyler Police Department officers gathered at La Michoacana Meat Market in Tyler on Thursday for the community response unit to build relationships with residents from all areas of Tyler, including those who are Hispanic.
The outreach event, known as “Ask A Cop,” is a result of new, ongoing changes and rotations in officers’ roles within the department. At the event, the officers handed out safety materials, such as helmets, handgun safety locks, pamphlets and brochures.
In the Beat 2 area, which covers the northeast area of town where La Michoacana Meat Market is located, Johnny Green was the officer in charge of community policing efforts, community education and crime prevention.
He said a big part of his role was to work with people who are homeless and help them get assistance.
In October, Green is expected to be assigned a new role at the police department as the homeless resource officer. Kevin Mobley, unit supervisor sergeant, said the position was made possible with the help of the Tyler City Council.
The creation of the position for Green opened up a new position for Bianca Cortez, who will now be serving as a Beat 2 officer.
“We’re hoping to be in a position as a department to be able to mitigate some of the similar problems that larger cities are having with the homeless,” Mobley said.
Mobley said as Green becomes a full-time homeless resource officer, he will be able to help those to find resolutions to their problems, whether it’s housing, assistance or mental health resources.
“It’s a good area to work. I enjoy working it,” Green said, adding people in that area are friendly, helpful and kind.
He said the event’s purpose was to go to different areas of the city, to get the public to visit with the officers about any concerns they have and to say hello.
“We wanted to reach out more to the Hispanic community,” Green said, adding the officer taking his Beat 2 officer spot speaks Spanish.
Cortez, who has worked with the Tyler Police Department for 12 years, worked the Beat 3, which is the fairground area and the west side of Tyler.
She said she grew up in Beat 2, where she will be working now.
At La Michoacana Meat Market, she was able to speak to Hispanic residents in Spanish, relating and connecting to them better than officers who cannot speak Spanish.
“I feel like I have a connection with this certain neighborhood, especially the community. I want them to feel safe and like someone’s listening to them, and just bridging the gap that’s there, especially with this language barrier. I want to show them the police department does care,” she said.
She looks to improve the community and said she could achieve that by just listening and informing at events such as these.
Cortez said some people may be from Mexico or Central America, where they don’t have a connection or relationship with their law enforcement.
“We want to tell you that they have the same rights. We’re here to help you out. If they’re victims of any crime, we’re listening and want them to come forward and tell us how we can help them,” she said.
Mobley said officers work on community projects and trying to resolve problems, whether they’re criminal or community. He added officers dedicate themselves to be as involved as possible within the city of Tyler.
“We know building relationships is an incremental process. One person at a time, one community at a time, one neighborhood at a time, is how we continue to build and maintain trust,” he said.