Move Toward the Badge
Cemal Gungor, City Administrator
Protestors and police faced each other in the streets of many U.S. cities in the summer of 2020, including in the Kansas City, Missouri, metro area. While activists called for defunding police in nearby cities, in the minority-majority community of Grandview the Pastors Alliance was praying with and for Grandview Police Officers, and residents were thanking officers for their service and inviting them to engage in real community conversations. These are the positive results of a long-term commitment to community through partnerships from a police department project implemented years earlier.
In early 2012, newly appointed Police Chief Charles Iseman began meeting with various groups and organizations in the community. Having served with Grandview Police Department since 1991, he was no stranger to the city, but what he learned in those meetings opened his eyes about policing and community. What he recognized was lack of trust and understanding.
Chief Iseman went to work with command staff to develop a long-term project to increase community outreach. The program needed to be consistent and sustainable and required developing partnerships and relationships in the Grandview community. Move Toward the Badge was born. The new program couldn't be, and still isn't, confined to a special unit. Instead, it's the job of all 57 sworn officers to participate in community engagement—something that is now built into the department’s culture.
The police department began Move Toward the Badge by focusing on youth, forming its first partnership with the Grandview C-4 school district by expanding the presence of school resource officers. One officer volunteered to don the old McGruff costume for school events. Recognizing the impact of the positive contacts with the kids, officers also signed up to speak at school career days, teach classes, and host events such as bicycle rodeos to teach bike safety, family fitness nights, safe driving for teens (the sergeant often brings a golf cart and “drunk goggles” and lets the teens try to drive), pizza with police, and drug resistance and gang resistance training. Over time, officers became so trusted that schools started requesting their attendance at dances, career days, field days, and other events.
As the police department grew more secure in its relationships with community youth, officers expanded Move Toward the Badge to engage adult residents and the business community through a variety of consistent interactions and partnerships: a citizens academy that teaches residents about police operations, “coffee with a cop” sessions hosted by local businesses, ride-alongs during routine patrols, faith-based outreach involving police participation in church picnics and other events, presence at block parties, and business checks during which officers get to know business owners and store clerks and help them make their businesses safer.
When Missouri was under a stay-at-home order during the pandemic, Chief Iseman encouraged officers to find creative ways to keep the community connections strong. In response, the officers came up with “Cop Stories” (officers reading children’s books on Facebook Live) and drive-by birthday parades for kids celebrating “a bummer of a birthday.”
Officers also supported activities more directly related to pandemic response. Drive-thru COVID-19 testing came to Grandview about the same time as protests were occurring elsewhere after the death of George Floyd. Grandview PD set up a tent at every testing site just to wave and interact with drivers. People wearing "Black Lives Matter" masks were waving at police. Officers also helped distribute disposable masks and helped area churches by delivering food.
Move Toward the Badge has evolved and will keep evolving in response to community needs. Grandview has learned that successful community engagement cannot be relegated to just a few big events every year. The program has to be consistent, with daily positive interactions and a philosophy of service that permeates the entire department. Grandview PD's message is clear: We are your partners and we’re here for you.