Bridgeport Police Highlight Social Service Partnerships in Uncrowded Online Forum

BRIDGEPORT – Bridgeport Police called various community groups on Tuesday, touted as an opportunity to introduce city residents to social services.

But few spectators showed up for the Zoom evening. About a third of the attendees were presenters and several others in the crowd were members of city council or the police department itself.

Nonetheless, the forum allowed law enforcement to shape the conversation about policing in Bridgeport. For nearly two hours, the ministry marketed its relationships with community groups that broadcast situations before they escalate into law enforcement.

“We thought it was important enough to take our time to inform you of the resources at our disposal, our course of action and our plan of action for the future, as well as all your concerns,” said said Rebeca Garcia, acting police chief. . “We’re going to focus specifically on the resources we have, the relationships we have with different entities that are represented here tonight.”

Garcia later reiterated in her opening comments that the forum will stick “strictly” to these partnerships and the help they can provide.

“If we work together as one, we can improve our community,” she said. “We can improve our relationships and focus on any concerns or problems we might have. “

The evening’s presenters included the Center for Family Justice, Liberation Programs, Project Longevity, CASA – Chemical Abuse Services Agency, and the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants.

The program worked as a response to city dwellers who repeatedly asked to divert police funds to social services and education. Representatives from the five organizations and Garcia discussed how they are helping each other serve Bridgeport, but did not address the idea of ​​funding.

The forum also comes as Bridgeport allocated $ 760,000 from its budget for a new social services unit to help police and many community groups during this week’s event.

“We work side by side, shoulder to shoulder, with the police. We have a special helpline for law enforcement when they call 911, ”said Debbie Greenwood, President and CEO of the Center for Family Justice, which provides free crisis and support services. and confidential to those affected by sexual violence, human trafficking and child abuse.

Likewise, speakers from Liberation Programs, an addiction service provider, said their organization is a key resource for law enforcement.

“What has been going on for the last year and a half now, for two years, with the Bridgeport Police Department (east) captains, lieutenants, chief, assistant deputy chiefs, just (call) anytime , to speak through one in case they know there is another option, ”said Tia Reid, regional director of outpatient and outreach services.

“It doesn’t always have to end with incarceration,” she said, “but there is something else that person needs to make sure that model is broken with addiction or mental health. “

Garcia cited a time when she called Release for a homeless man, then withdrew from the situation so he wouldn’t fear police involvement.

Also on the list of presenters was Project Longevity, an anti-gun violence group that works closely with law enforcement. The organization was represented by local project manager Harold Dimbo, a former member of the Bridgeport Police Department for 26 years.

Dimbo called the incarceration a “band-aid” that does not get to the root of the problems, and emphasized community buy-in.

“Police can never stop gun violence in Bridgeport,” Dimbo said. “It should be done within the community, so we’re working really hard on the community and trying to bridge that gap between the community and the police.

“There were rumors that Project Longevity was nothing but the police trying to put our children in jail, and that is not true. Because me and the chief, we sit for hours to think about ways to prevent them from going to jail, ”he said. “This program is more geared towards 21st (century) policing, meaning you try to help them before they get locked up.”

Garcia said the public can expect more forums like Tuesday night’s event, likely in person.

“This is just the first more to come,” she said.

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