Making national news, for the right reasons

Published 4:07 pm Monday, March 21, 2016

It’s not often that eastern North Carolina makes the national news. In fact, for the most part, it’s mostly hurricanes and tornadoes, and the occasional particularly gruesome homicide, that tend to catapult towns of North Carolina’s coastal plain into the limelight.

During the last week, however, the Greenville Police Department has gone national with its response to a photo posted on Facebook that was less than complimentary to the department, depicting a young man standing next to a police vehicle, making crude gestures with both hand and body. The photo was shared, and shared again, until it came to the attention of police officials.

The Greenville Police Department’s response was about as close to perfect as it gets. It starts by identifying the vehicle Brandon Mateo is using as a prop as belonging to the head of Greenville’s Gang Unit, a 12-year veteran of the force and someone who “is there on a daily basis as a helping hand during some of the most terrible moments in someone’s life.”

“You see Brandon, we probably have a lot more in common with you than you might think. As police officers in today’s world, unfortunately, we get our fair share of criticism and ridicule … simply for doing our jobs. We hate that you chose to partake in that, but we’d also imagine you are probably on the receiving end of some of that right now, too. We feel you. Our advice: Keep your chin up. Some days you are the windshield and some days you are the bug.”

Then Greenville Police offer to take Mateo on a ride-along, in the front seat, so he can actually see what police officers do on a daily basis.

As of Monday at noon, Mateo had spoken to GPD Chief Mark Holtzman and Public Information Officer Kristen Hunter and will take them up on their offer.

Kudos to Greenville Police for taking the high road. Its response was not angry or threatening, instead it was a lesson in tolerance: “Don’t like us? Why don’t you get to know us?”

That’s the way it should be. Over the past several years, Washington Police has made it its mission to provide the same opportunities through events and programs that truly define the phrase community outreach. Beaufort County Police Activities League does the same, hosting events where residents can get to know their local first responders on a more personal level.

Beaufort County agencies might not be making national news, but they’re certainly making the effort to bring the community together.