Jessica Cerda, WestCare Texas
WestCare Texas partnered with the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) to host a special event on Saturday, August 14th at the Second Baptist Church Community Center that focused on preparing students and families for the new school year as well as building community trust between residents and police officers.
Backpacks filled with notebooks, pens, folders and other supplies were distributed to hundreds of students – many lining up with their parents and siblings hours before the event’s start time, signaling the continued necessity for resource fairs. Parents and families received guidance on free nutrition programs from the San Antonio Food Bank’s social services team. In addition, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District administered approximately 200 COVID-19 vaccinations on-site for individuals ages 12 and up. Parents, students, and community members in attendance were also equipped with a very valuable, nontangible resource – a communication and de-escalation workshop with the SAPD.
SAPD’s workshop with Eastside residents included roleplay that put officers in parents’ shoes and vice versa, focusing on how to communicate with each other in the event of a tense situation.
“Action and meeting with people are going to be the best ways to open up communications and dialogue with police and our community,” said Beverly Watts Davis, Chief Officer of Resource Development & Program Support. SAPD Officer, Joel Pope, who participated in the workshop, believes, “It’s extremely important for the police department and the community engagement unit to interact and build mutual trust with the community. Chief of Police, William McManus, is very excited about getting police officers out into the community connecting with residents, finding out what is happening in neighborhoods, identifying opportunities for partnerships and reporting back to SAPD where there are needs for community-based training and opportunities for engagement to improve community relations and build community trust.”