Salem police having community conversations through new initiative

'Let’s encourage people to come talk to us face-to-face'

SALEM, Va. – In response to all of the unrest around the country since the death of George Floyd, Salem police officers are hitting the streets in a new way.

Armed with stickers and a desire for conversation, senior Salem police officer David Goodman and Sgt. Stan Malek hung out at Lake Spring Park in Salem Wednesday afternoon.

“We’ve got great support from our community. That’s something we don’t ever want to lose, so we want to be proactive,” Malek said.

Salem police officers spend time Wednesday interacting with people at Lake Spring Park.
Salem police officers spend time Wednesday interacting with people at Lake Spring Park. (Copyright 2020 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

Wednesday's park patrol was part of the department's new initiative called CULTURE, which stands for community understanding leadership through unbiased response engagement.

“We want citizens to know everything you hear in the media isn’t true,” said Goodman.

The goal is to spend time at a business or public place each Wednesday.

”We thought, ‘Let’s just get out here. Let’s encourage people to come talk to us face-to-face,‘” said Malek. “Hopefully, we can better understand where we’re coming from and they can also understand.”

Jim Matheson spent time talking to the officers at the park.

He said he’s glad to see the police department making an effort to reach out.

“It lets you know that they’re thinking about the public,” said Matheson.

Matheson was eager to talk to the officers about their thoughts on peoples’ attitudes toward law enforcement.

“I wanted to see how they felt, whether they felt like they were being oppressed or if they still enjoyed their job,” Matheson said.

This was only the second week of the initiative, but Malek and Goodman said it’s already working.

”We have a better understanding of why people are upset and what things we can do to better police the community,” said Goodman.

They’re keeping the city safe one conversation at a time.

As of Wednesday, Goodman and Malek planned to be at the YMCA next Wednesday.

Anyone wanting to request a location for the weekly event can call the police department at 540-375-3078.