The Suffolk County Police Department Community Relations Bureau (CRB) and 7th Precinct recently hosted a Barber, Beauty & Books event at Jenny’s JNT Beauty Barbershop. The purpose of the event was to garner community support for officers working the beat and to foster relationships between officers and community members.
“Events like this help us build bridges within the communities and help us find out what’s going on,” said Capt. Michael Alfano, of the 7th Precinct.
The event was well attended with community members, police officers and barbershop workers mingling as patrons got coiffed. Officers read to children who were in attendance and offered them take-home books supplied by The Book Fairies, a Long Island-based nonprofit organization that provides used books to children in need. Additionally, kids left the event with swag bags full of police department merchandise, including a pen and water bottle; and, while there, were treated to donuts brought from Duck Donuts in Selden.
Officers in attendance said the event, and ones like it, are critical in forging relationships between community members and officers.
“Doing patrol, you see people during the worst five minutes of their day. Now, I see people who want to see me [working as a community liaison]. We want people to see that we’re about more than just writing tickets,” said officer Frank Raspanti, who organized the event as community liaison for the 7th Precinct.
Raspanti believes when community members speak to officers at these types of events, it’s usually about quality-of-life issues, including people running stop signs or stop lights in their neighborhood, or people passing in front of buses, creating an unsafe environment for local school kids. Also, residents tip officers off on possible drug houses, abandoned homes or homes that may be being used to commit crimes. Some of these issues may be passed off to other municipalities—for example, the towns—so that they can be dealt with correctly. However, communicating with officers in any of these scenarios can help with the overall safety of a neighborhood.
“We live in a safe community where the crime rate is not very high. So, we deal with a lot of quality-of-life issues,” he added.
Sgt. Bonnie Raber, of CRB, echoed Raspanti’s sentiments, calling events similar to Barber, Beauty & Books essential to community development.
“Today we’re inviting the community to come in and speak with us. This isn’t an enemy-type of situation—we’re here to establish a dialogue and bridge the gap between the department and communities we serve,” said Raber, who added that precincts across Suffolk County host events including and similar to Barbers, Beauty & Books, in order to create relationships. “This place [the barbershop] is a hub of foot traffic and it’s right in the center of the community.”
According to Raber, the event was modeled after Clippers and Cops, which started in an Atlanta, Ga., barbershop in March 2018. That first event was organized by community members and police officers, wanting to create a space for uncensored dialogue.
In addition to Clippers and Cops, the event also took inspiration from Coffee with a Cop, another community relation-style event meant to unite police and the communities they serve. Coffee with a Cop is a nonprofit, started in Hawthorne, Calif., in 2011. Now, Coffee with a Cop events are hosted in all 50 states. Suffolk County police precincts also host Coffee with a Cop events at local McDonald’s and Starbucks.