Police work often not about the bad guys
arkville Police Chief Kevin Chrisman wants to dispel a myth. He says local police spend little time enforcing laws. More time is actually spent connecting with community members.
Crime prevention, not law enforcement, accounts for most of officers’ time and energy and it often looks more like the compassionate acts of social workers than what many people consider typical police work.
“We’re not just chasing bad guys,” the veteran officer said during a recent telephone interview, adding that many social and other media exclusively portray police in violent pursuit.
“Enforcing the law is a very small percentage of what police do,” he said. “The rest of the time, it’s building relationships,” he said, adding that Parkville department uses what police call “the community policing philosophy.” The theory is that through positive experiences with police, “people get to know you and it builds a sense of trust.”
Officers often discover instances in which people need help by accident when they respond to calls for help, said Chrisman, the Parkville chief for the past 12 years. He would rather replace images implanted in the minds of citizens of officers physically sparring with protesters, for instance, with the more common trust-building acts of assistance.
Chrisman provided a few examples to prove his point. Several years ago, officers responded to a residence where they saw an infant sleeping in a plastic milk crate because the parents could not afford a baby bed. Chrisman purchased a bed using money from the Parkville Police Community Assistance Fund (PPCADF), an emergency account to which locals donate throughout the year. The fund also helps pay for an annual Christmas luncheon for senior citizens living at the Park Village apartment complex, Chrisman said.
Al Burns, owner of Al’s Bar and Grill, a Parkville sports bar, has donated chicken wings to the luncheon during recent years, Chrisman said, adding that the fund pays for the remainder of the costs of the event.
Another example is from early December when the community fund came to the aid of a young Parkville couple, whose car was stolen from their driveway of the apartment complex where they live. When Nick Espinosa and Abby Kendall called Parkville police to report the car stolen, they weren’t sure where their car ended up.
“We still thought someone was on the run with it,” Kendall said during a telephone interview.
Discovering the Honda’s location was difficult, she said, because the thief had removed the license plates. The Honda was towed from where it was abandoned near Front Street and likely was part of a local auto theft ring. Police also learned the vehicle had sustained interior damage during the theft.
When Chrisman overheard a telephone conversation between Parkville Police Det. Craig Hubbell and the owner of the storage lot, which included the fee of more than $800 for storage, Chrisman bargained with the owners and got the storage fee reduced to $150, which he paid using PPCAF money to get the vehicle released.
He then contacted Mike Higdon, owner of Arrow Tow in Parkville, who towed the car for free to Dave’s Foreign Auto Repair. That owner, Dave McKahan, repaired the car and replaced badly worn tires labor free, only charging the fund for parts, Chrisman said.
This is not the first time the two have donated services to help stretch the funds’ donations, the police chief said.
Chrisman also invited the couple to the department’s annual Shop with a Cop event in which local residents meet police officials and volunteers at a store to pick out childrens’ gifts and groceries.
Kendall said, “They (police) just kept adding (donations).”
The experience made a good impression on the couple’s two-year-old daughter, whom she said now has “a lot of new police officer friends.”
The couple’s daughter was among 21 children who received gifts this year and the fund financed about $8,500 in items.
While at the store this year, Chrisman overheard a shopper (who was not part of the Shop With a Cop event) tell his young son he could not afford to purchase a toy the boy wanted. Chrisman offered to pay for the toy and offered the family to join the shopping event, which they did.
While Shop With a Cop always leaves participating officers and volunteers with a feeling of satisfaction, this year was especially meaningful, given the extra burden some have faced due to COVID.
“It was just a really touching year,” he said, adding there were “a lot of individual incidents where we touched each others’ hearts. We do this every year, but I never get tired of talking about it and it makes you feel really good that you’re helping someone,” he said.
Because of the department and those who have donated to the fund, Kendall said, what started as a very bad experience with the theft of their car actually “had a happy ending.” She said, “It was a very blessed Christmas.”