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Police officers connecting with community by offering Rays tickets

Chief Melanie Bevan speaks with young girls at Just for Girls' East Bradenton Leadership and Learning Center. Bevan talked about her journey to become a chief of police and asked girls what they wanted to be when they grew up.
Chief Melanie Bevan speaks with young girls at Just for Girls' East Bradenton Leadership and Learning Center. Bevan talked about her journey to become a chief of police and asked girls what they wanted to be when they grew up. ttompkins@bradenton.com

The Bradenton Police Department says it is looking for some of the city’s “most valuable players” to reward them with free tickets to a Tampa Bay Rays game.

In return, Bradenton police just want a few minutes of time to connect with the community.

“Everybody, particularly in today’s day and age, police can be viewed with a little bit of skepticism and cynicism and we are just like everybody else,” Police Chief Melanie Bevan said. “We are part of this community, we don’t just police it.”

The Bradenton Police Department teamed up with the Tampa Bay Rays for the Bradenton Buddies program, which will distribute 1,000 ticket vouchers in the community.

“When we can have a positive interaction with any member it only serves to improve our image and forms a better understanding,” Bevan said. “That is truly the real goal here.”

Each of the 1,000 vouchers is good for four tickets to a regular season Rays home game.

Already, Bevan has distributed the vouchers to Just for Girls, the Visible Men Academy and the Rotary Club of Bradenton.

“What we are trying to promote is positive interaction between the community and the police,” Bevan said. “We are looking for both children and adults.”

After the recent trip to talk to students at the Visible Men Academy, Bevan said her officers enjoyed the interaction.

“The kids afterwords were asking for their autographs,” she said. “How impressive is that, they are looking to officers as heroes.”

The vouchers come at a good time, she said, with children out of school for the summer.

With less then five months on the job, Bevan is looking to various means to get her department to connect with the community.

“You have to build up social capital one positive contact at a time,” she said. “We need to make it our goal with 53,000 residents to have 53,000 positive interactions over the next few years.”

Bevan said she is thankful to the Rays for donating the vouchers.

“My gift back to the Rays is to try to give out every single last one,” she said.

And it will be a department-wide effort.

“I know (Assistant) Chief (Josh) Cramer is getting with his patrol officers, and they are going to be scouring the streets looking for kids doing good things,” Bevan said. “It is going to be a little difficult.”

The department hopes to find summer camps that have the means to transport kids to the stadium, so she can provide them with vouchers.

“We are hoping to fill the stadium with some Bradenton citizens, both young and old,” Bevan said.

Anyone interested in the program can call the Bradenton Police Department at 941-932- 9300.

Jessica De Leon: 941-745-7049, @JDeLeon1012

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