ORLANDO, Fla. – Bridging the gap between communities and law enforcement through faith, Friday marked the start of National Faith & Blue Weekend with events scheduled in Ocala, St. Cloud and Orlando.
Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon said he’s bringing back the neighborhood patrol unit so officers can better understand the areas they serve, and help improve relationships between community members and police.
“There is a huge opportunity for us to bring that program back to OPD. It’s a program that, unfortunately when violent crime took a spike in the 2008 era, we did away with most of our resources when it comes to the neighborhood patrol unit so we could form violent-offender-type units to bring down violent crime activity. Rightly so, it was needed. But once we take something away, it’s hard to bring that back,” Rolon said.
Rolon made several statements about changes that will be made to the department during a candid conversation with Orlando pastor William Andrews with Heart of Mercy Ministries. The video posted on Facebook to kick off National Faith & Blue Weekend.
Changes include 10 additional officers reviving the neighborhood patrol unit and the department getting funding through the COPS grant and additional budgetary funds through the City of Orlando.
“Not necessarily for enforcement purposes, but to build relationships, which will in turn address the activity that may be luring some of our youth and community into a (negative) path. If we intervene in time, hopefully we’ll have great success,” Rolon said.
Andrews suggested officers gain more training within the communities they serve, even offering his church as a training site.
“Walk them through the community, introduce them to people so community members will be familiar with them... the relationship between law enforcement and community is essential in transforming the community,” Andrews said.
During the discussion, Rolon agreed to implement in-community training sessions. After that conversation, in a Zoom interview, Rolon told News 6 he will continue to listen.
“Sometimes for our profession, we’re more inclined to tell people how it is we’re going to help them, when in fact we have learned now it is more important for us to listen to the community,” Rolon said.
OPD will livestream another conversation with community members Friday at 7 p.m. on its Facebook page. There are also other events planned throughout the weekend in Orlando, Ocala and St. Cloud. Click here to learn more about the events in your area.