Sandy Police recognized for ‘Walk and Talk’ initiativeFeb 23, 2022 06:28PM ● By Justin Adams
The Sandy City Police Department is encouraging its officers to spend more time out of their vehicles, seeking out opportunities to have friendly natural interactions with residents. (Photo courtesy of Sandy Police Department)
By Justin Adams | [email protected]
Have you seen more Sandy Police officers out of their cars, walking around your neighborhood in the past year? If so, that’s not by accident. A new initiative from the city’s police department called “Officer Walk and Talk” was implemented last year, and is already garnering attention.
In January, the department was recognized with an honorable mention by LAW Publications in its inaugural Community Engagement Awards. In a press release announcing the awards, the organization pointed to the new program.
“Utah’s Sandy Police Department utilizes numerous events and initiatives to engage and activate their community. Programs like their ‘Officer Walk and Talk’ and participation in local community events allows them to positively connect with the general public.”
So what is the program exactly?
“The main purpose is community engagement. The idea behind it is to park your car, leave that mobile office and then walk the streets of Sandy. Hitting neighborhoods, hitting business areas and just engaging with people,” explained Sgt. Greg Moffitt.
Over the course of 2021, the department recorded 2,766 Walk and Talks, with over 500 of them coming in just one of the summer months.
“It’s a perfect opportunity because more people are out doing yard work or walking their dogs. It gives the officers a chance to interact with the citizens of Sandy in a very non-threatening manner. It’s a very casual and comfortable setting,” Moffitt said.
Even if it’s just 15-20 minutes per day, Moffitt said the program has benefits not only for public safety but also for the physical and mental well-being of the city’s officers. But the biggest benefit comes in the form of police-community relationships.
“When you see an officer in their car driving around versus actually getting a moment to talk to them, you start to see the human factor. A lot of people just see the uniform and the car. They don’t see the actual person. And this gives people an opportunity to do that,” Moffitt said.
Many residents have taken advantage of these chance meetings to ask questions that they previously had kept to themselves, either because they weren’t sure how to get in contact with the department or didn’t want to waste someone’s time. But from a policing perspective, it’s much more time-effective to have those conversations before a crime happens.
“It’s better for us to spend 15 minutes talking to someone about things they can do for crime prevention, then to spend one to two hours with them filing reports when there’s been a burglary,” Moffitt said.
Other interactions have been as simple as an officer who was able to take a selfie with some folks who were doing a photo-scavenger hunt.
Creating opportunities for the community to have positive interactions with its officers is even more important for the department during an era when policing has been under the national spotlight.
“Having these officers get out can help break that perception within themselves. The last couple of years have been difficult. Here in Utah, and specifically in Sandy, we have really good interactions with and support from our community,” Moffitt said.
With the program continuing in its second year, Moffitt wants Sandy residents to know that they want people to come up and talk to them.
“Don’t be alarmed if you see some officers out on a foot patrol in your neighborhood,” he said. “And feel free to go up and talk to them. Ask them questions. Let them know about your concerns.”