Festival aims at stronger police-community connection

TUPELO – In its sixth year, the Communities Forward Festival seemed to have accomplished its goal of bringing the police department and community closer together.
Started by Ward 4 Councilwoman Nettie Davis as a way to bridge the gap between police and the citizens they protect, the festival has had meager participation in previous years. But this year parking spaces at Gumtree Park on Front Street were hard to find, a sign that turnout was up.
Sgt. Katarsha White helped organize the event.
White said she was pleased with the event’s turnout and that its growth is a sign of improved relations between police and the community.
Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton attended the festival. He said he was glad to see people interacting with police like they would with any other citizens of Tupelo.
“This is what it’s about,” said Carleton. “People getting a chance to meet the officers and to see that they are just people. We want people to feel like police are their friends because our officers are neighbors of someone just like any other citizen. So to be able to come out here and fellowship in this type of setting is a great thing.”
The children were impacted the most by being able to see and talk to officers. James Carter’s son Calvin had a run-in with the law for breaking curfew recently. Carter wanted his son to know that police do more than handcuff people so he brought him out so the boy could see and hear for himself.
“I never really talk to police because I feel like they are just going to arrest people for no reason,” said the younger Carter. “But I guess they aren’t all bad. The ones I met today were pretty cool.”
James Carter said he felt the festival helped with his son’s long-term view of the law.
“Kids go by what they see on television,” said Carter. “So for them to be able to see real police officers and have real conversations with them, it’s a blessing. I hope this is the thing he needs to change his thinking a little.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com.

DANZA JOHNSON / NEMS Daily Journal