Bradenton police ‘Walkin’ the Beat’ to boost local dialogue

The Bradenton Police Department has announced a new initiative dubbed “Walkin’ the Beat.”

“The goal of this program is to form more positive working relationships with our community members through regular dialogue,” Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan said in a news release. “Additionally, officers will become acutely familiar with their areas of responsibility with regards to crime trends and quality of life issues and learn from the residents themselves what their neighborhood concerns truly are.”

Officers have been participating in the new program for the past few weeks.

During a Bradenton City Council meeting Wednesday morning, Bevan said the Walkin’ the Beat program is designed to encourage officers at every level, including command staff and detectives, “to get out of their cars and get face time with the community.”

“It’s a different way to build up greater dialogue with citizens,” she said. “I have very high hopes for this program.”

The program will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Officers will focus their efforts within their assigned beats to include any high-crime areas, businesses, parks, residential areas and in and around schools.

“All Walkin’ the Beat activities will be documented in order to monitor BPD outreach efforts,” the release states. “Officers will regularly engage with community members they meet along the way, to answer any questions they may have about BPD in general, current public safety strategies and outreach initiatives.”

Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston said police department initiatives such as weekly Coffee with a Cop program are already showing success.

“They are working very well,” he said. “It’s amazing the number of young people who come up and talk to our police officers who may otherwise walk the other way. It’s a good mentoring process for us.”

Bevan said she has approved a request from her detectives to have footballs, soccer balls and basketballs in their vehicles so law enforcement officers can engage the community’s youths when the opportunity presents itself.

According to the release, Walkin’ the Beat is similar to various park-and-walk programs that have been successfully implemented in other cities. For many officers at the agency who already regularly participate in this style of policing without a written directive, this is simply a continuation of their community outreach, albeit more defined in terms to frequency, police said.

Amaris Castillo: 941-745-7051, @AmarisCastillo