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Living room conversations invite cops in to communities

Courtesy Seattle Police Dept.
A living room conversation with Seattle police, taking place in a residential home.

Small talk isn’t usually encouraged between police officers and the public.

But, the Seattle Police Department is trying to change that, with a program that encourages people to invite the cops in for “living room conversations. ”

For most people, seeing a police officer in uniform is intimidating. You don’t usually get up close and personal with a cop unless something bad is happening. Seattle Lieutenant Carmen Best says inviting police in for a living room conversation helps build trust.

“It creates an environment where we can have a social, casual setting for community members and their neighborhood police officers to interact and build a positive relationship in a non-enforcement environment. ”

The program invites community members to open up their homes to their neighbors and 3 or 4 of the officers who patrol their streets.

The Department has a grant to provide refreshments and interpreters, if they’re needed. They can also hold the meetings in community centers.

The police often take questions about crime stats or how to prevent break-ins. But just as important, Best says, is the one-on-one interaction.

“You know, talking about their personal life and family and just sharing information and really humanizing the officers. And letting the officers also see the community members in a different light as well,” Best says.

She says the living room conversations also encourage neighbors to get to know one another, which is another way to strengthen communities.

Since the program launched a year ago, they’ve held more than 30 conversations so far, in living rooms all over Seattle.

More are planned for the weeks and months ahead.

If you're interested in joining a living room conversation with Seattle police or getting one started for your neighborhood, you can follow this link to more information.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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