06/30/17 — Police officers present their community poilicing projects

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Police officers present their community poilicing projects

By Ethan Smith
Published in News on June 30, 2017 6:57 AM

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Officer Will Smith gives a presentation with other Goldsboro Police Officers Wednesday morning at Wayne Community College to share the outcome of the groups community policing activity that involved a traffic stop scenario.

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Matthew Habermas talks about how his group's traffic stop scenario changed the minds of participants about whether or not they would shoot when put in a dangerous situation.

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Photos from a community policing activity are shown during a presentation Wednesday at Wayne Community College. The traffic stop scenario showed how a simple traffic stop could escalate into a dangerous situation.

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Camelia Walker gives her feedback and suggestions to a group of officers with the Goldsboro Police Department Wednesday at Wayne Community College as they shared their experiences with community policing.

A dozen officers with the Goldsboro Police Department presented the projects they completed as part of the agency's in-house community policing class to stakeholders Wednesday.

They were the second round of officers to do so, with the first round completing the course and presenting projects in May.

One group put four citizens through a "shoot, don't shoot" scenario. They gave participants fake guns that use "simunition" rounds -- but did not tell them that the guns weren't loaded with the non-lethal rounds, opting instead for the guns to be empty.

Officers Matthew Habermas, Jeff Johnson, Aaron Keefer, Andrew Nail and Will Smith were in charge of putting the citizens through the scenario.

Out of the possible scenarios of a suspicious person, a traffic stop, a breaking and entering in progress, an armed suspect or an unknown disturbance, the five officers elected to put citizens into the traffic stop scenario.

"We stop cars, we interact with people every day," Smith said. "That was the goal, is not to put the volunteers into something we don't deal with, something that's not out of the norm."

After the scenario -- which involved approaching a car with heavily tinted windows -- each participant said their perspective on how officers handle those situations changed.

The officers said it showed the participants how a simple, every day situation can turn into a life or death crisis in an instant.

They said they wished they had more time to plan for the scenario simulation so more people could have participated.

There were two other groups of officer who presented their projects.

Officers Tom Collins, Tom Meitler and Kyle Rozzi built a bench a flagpole for the graveside of Pfc. Dan Bullock.

Bullock was a teenager from Goldsboro who was the youngest person to die in the Vietnam war after forging his birth certificate and joining the U.S. Marine Corps at only age 14.

The officers said continuing to honor Bullock -- a historical marker and street were dedicated to him earlier this year -- was an honor. Bullock died June 7, 1969, while under small arms fire.

Meitler himself is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, serving 21 years.

Collins said he'd read Bullock's biography and discovered he had dreamt of one day being a police officer.

"For somebody at his age to go make the sacrifice that he did, this is a small token that we could do," Collins said.

Officers Alvino Daniels, Donna Elliott, Josh Goodson and Chris Melvin held a cookout at the Boys and Girls Club, feeding around 200 children.

They had planned for100 and had to run to the grocery store to get more food for the event because it was such a hit.

In addition to feeding the kids, they also brought a bouncy-house along and played sports with the children -- they said it was such a success, the children wanted them to come back as soon as possible.

The officers said it humanized them to the children and showed them that they are members of the community, too.

"It gave us a chance to interact with kids from all across the city, different age ranges, boys and girls, and show them that we're just normal people, too. We like to laugh and joke and play sports and have fun and cookout and be silly, just like they are," Goodson said. "It really bothers me when I'm out in public and the parent points at me, and then looks at their kid, and says 'If you don't act right, I'm going to get that officer to arrest you.' I don't want the kids to be scared of us, I want the kids to know they can come talk to us about anything that's going on."

At the end of the presentations, the officers received certificates marking their completion of the course. The course included classes about community policing, culminating in the projects the officers presented Wednesday.