Deputies engage community

Published 7:50 pm Friday, June 9, 2017

The Suffolk Sheriff’s office is taking steps this summer to build stronger relationships with the community.

Two of those steps involve Slurpees and coffee.

The sheriff’s office on Thursday began participating in Operation Chill, a nationwide community outreach program promoted by the 7-Eleven company of convenience stores. The program is designed to improve relations between youth and law enforcement.

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Sheriff E.C. Harris and his staff will be handing out coupons to young people doing good deeds in the community. Deputies will hand these out at the courthouse, while they’re out in the community serving civil paperwork and at community outreach events.

Each coupon can be redeemed for a free small Slurpee at any 7-Eleven through the end of the year.

“I’m going to get every single different kind of flavor,” said 4-year-old Liam Jones, who received a coupon on Thursday at the Sheriff’s office on North Main Street, along with his brother and sisters.

Liam and his siblings understood that doing nice things for people can come back around to them eventually. His sister Makayla, for instance, got help at school.

“A person helped me carry my textbooks,” 11-year-old Makayla said.

Suffolk deputies are determined to foster good relationships with community youth.

“I feel like it’s very critical for law enforcement to communicate one on one with our youth,” said Deputy Reva Brinkley. “It lets them know that we’re here to help.”

Deputy Joe Bidnick coaches Liam in sports at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School. Deputy Edward Harville is also at Elephant’s Fork every day, checking classrooms and sometimes reading books to the children.

Brinkley volunteers for youth ministry at New Gospel Temple Church of God in Christ on Whaleyville Boulevard.

“They are forming relationships with them, and they’re getting to see them doing normal things,” said civil process secretary Katie Jones, Liam’s grandmother.

The first Coffee with the Sheriff was held Thursday.

Harris sat down at the Chic-fil-A in Harbour View with open invitation for citizens to join him and discuss their questions or concerns. About 15 individuals came by to respectfully share their thoughts, Harris said.

“I was surprised by the amount of people that sat down and talked to me about everything,” he said.

The next Coffee with the Sheriff will be at The Egg Bistro on Harbour View Boulevard from 10 to 11 a.m. on June 22.

Efforts like these build deeper connections in the community, and greater confidence in deputies when incidents happen and tensions boil, Harris said.

“Once you have that relationship of trust, people will give you a minute or two to figure out what’s really going on before jumping to conclusions,” he said. “When things flare up, they won’t get out of hand so quickly.”

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