Pictures of smiling faces dotted the Sparks Police Department’s Facebook page following its June 24 “Unity in the Community” BBQ event held at Oppio Park. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. the community of Sparks could check out the police vehicles, K9, mounted unit horses and chat with officers about whatever is on their mind while being treated to free hot dogs, hamburgers and ice cream from Sierra Swirl.
“It was great, we had several hundred people at the event,” says Sparks Police Department’s Ken Gallop. “We had all of our volunteers, police officers, the chief was here, our mobile command center, horses, and K9. It was fun,” he added.
Although it was 96 degrees in Sparks on Saturday, a steady stream of people came through the event, some staying all day.
“There were a lot of great conversations going on, Sparks officials were here, kids could interact with us and find out about the Explorers program. People learned about the department and what we do,” says Gallop.
In his opinion, the highlight of the barbecue was the K9 demonstration and free Sierra Swirl ice cream, but “it all depends on who you ask,” Gallop says. Gallop was the one who had to put on the training bite suit, which he says was like wearing 10 layers of carpet.
“But a lot of people just wanted to talk,” he adds. Gallop says he enjoyed taking a moment during the barbecue to look around and see people interacting with the officers and learning about their vehicles.
“That interaction is very important to me,” he says. “One family has attended all of our barbecues and approached me about a young family member who they were having an issue with. Now they have options on how to deal with that member,” Gallop says, taking pride in the police department’s ability to avert crises.
The officers respond to service calls every day and approach a situation by identifying issues at hand, meeting people where they are, and try to see how they can resolve it.
“That’s our bread and butter,” Gallop says. “Community events are an opportunity for us to have one-on-one conversations with families in a non-enforcement role and build trust. These BBQs are a simple format- no agenda, no speeches, we come as we are and we ask the community to come as they are with a meal on us,” he adds. “This is an opportunity to get to know your neighbor and be more engaged.”
With the motto “Where Community Comes First”, the SPD believes that it’s important for law enforcement to have a better relationship with the community it serves.
“Whether we have 300 people or 3,000, it’s a win for us,” Gallop says about attendance of the events. “Now we’re planning for the next one. Our community resource center does quite a bit with programs and events, but it’s not the everyday routine for officers,” he says.
The SPD has put on community barbecues the last few years in the summer months and will continue planning the next ones with dates to be determined in July, August and September.
Gallop encourages people to visit the SPD website at http://sparkspolice.com/ and follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SparksPoliceNV/ to stay up to date on current events.
“We’re here to help 24 hours a day,” Gallop says. “I respond to every question on Facebook; we just want people to come to us, talk to us.”