KALAMAZOO, Mich. — There was an obstacle course, food on the grill and a homemade slip-n-slide that a few of the kids at Fox Ridge Apartments created from all the rain that came pouring down. The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety put on a block party for them and they were determined to enjoy it.
“Oh they were having a lot of fun,” said KDPS Sgt. David Juday during an interview at the block party. “The mystery was a big hit for them today, being hot early on. So the kids are still having fun.”
Fun was the intention, he said, along with building their trust in police officers. KDPS began planning the event back in March and, in light of recent tensions between officers and inner-city communities, it was a perfect time to have an event like this.
“Our biggest message to the kids is we’re people too,” said Sgt. Juday. “Just because we wear uniform doesn’t make us big and bad and scary. And a lot of the kids, when we’re here interacting with them and racing with them, doing the obstacles with them, they understand that.”
Sgt. Juday said they and other organizers have a few block parties a summer. They host them in inner-city areas where kids typically see policemen investigating a crime scene, like Fox Ridge Apartments where a shooting occurred Wednesday afternoon. Hosting a block party helps kids see police in a positive light.
“It’s worked for us in the past,” said Sgt. Juday. “I’ve dealt with a lot of kids when they were little. As they grow up, I still know them very well and have that great relationship.”
Minutes before Thursday’s Block Party began, rain, thunder and lightning set in for 45 minutes. However it didn’t stop the volunteers from throwing a few hotdogs on the grill and serving them to the kids. Once the rain let up, the music was turned on and the kids were playing with the police.
“Our biggest goal is to breakdown those barriers,” said Sgt. Juday. “And build the bridges with the kids.”