By LISA CAPOBIANCO
The police board recently approved a new initiative that promotes good will between Bristol officers and the West End neighborhood.
Proposed by City Councilor Jodi Zils Gagne, this initiative allows local businesses to donate small gift cards to the city, and police officers who walk the West End beat can then give the tokens of appreciation to folks they see engaging in positive acts, such as holding the door for others or using a crosswalk. Officers who see acts of good will in the West End will be instructed to distribute these gift cards as a way to thank these citizens.
Bristol Police Chief Brian Gould said the police department looks forward to participating in this new initiative, which will make a positive impact on everyone involved.
“These officers take pride in what they do. They enjoy partnering with our public,” said Gould.
When Gagne heard about a small town in New Hampshire that implemented this program many years ago, she thought it would be a great way to bring positivity to Bristol.
“This idea had been on my mind since I was elected in 2015,” said Gagne (who is running as a Republican for re-election in the second district). “I wanted to do my part to help bring a little positivity to the city.”
Gagne said she received a lot of support from police commissioners when she proposed the program to the board, and was proud to see her proposal come to fruition. The police board unanimously approved the proposal during its monthly meeting on May 16.
Through this initiative, she hopes that officers walking around the West End will have more opportunities to interact with more positive community members than they normally do. She also hopes the community will gain a more positive outlook on the Bristol Police Department.
“There are many situations where children grow up to fear the police,” said Gagne. “If you are obeying the law, however, there is no reason to fear the police. You should be looking to the police as role models and helpers in our community.”
“They will get to see that the police are here to be there friends,” added Gould.
Besides the police board, this initiative also received a nod of approval from the West End Association. Dave Hamelin, the president of the association, called the initiative a “fantastic idea,” noting how it can show the community that the West End neighborhood can be a positive place.
“It would portray the positive in the neighborhood,” said Hamelin.
Gagne said she is currently reaching out to businesses about the program, and hopes many will take part in it.
“I want both the police and the citizens to have a positive feeling, a feeling of goodwill, and be proud of our community and our city as a whole,” said Gagne, adding that the program can help drive business in the city.
Gould said the Bristol Police Department will do whatever it can to support the West End and local businesses.
“Time and time again these businesses step up with their support for the Bristol Police Department,” said Gould. “We depend on each other to provide the best service for our community.
Gould also expressed gratitude for the positive partnership between the police department and the West End Association. The police department not only sends an officer liaison to the Association’s monthly meetings, but also has played a key role in the non-profit’s neighborhood watch group, which launched over a year ago.
“We enjoy helping them fulfill their mission of continuing to make the West End a great place to reside and visit,” said Gould.
“Our association with the police department has always been fantastic,” added Hamelin. “They do above and beyond what’s necessary to make sure there’s a presence here in the West End, and they respond instantly to any problem that we have. To be able to give them tools to go out and do good in the community is a wonderful thing.”
Any businesses interested in donating a gift card to this program can contact Gagne at (860) 614-0228.