Police officers and police chiefs from across North Texas, including Dallas' new interim chief, along with community leaders gathered in South Dallas for ‘Operation Blue Shield.’
One of the keynote speakers was a police officer who's gained national attention for his work within his community and on social media to bridge the gap between officers and the communities they serve.
Event organizers say Wednesday night’s event was about tackling the tough issues of racism and police brutality head on, not only having a conversation about it but also talking about a different way to police in the community. Police officers and community members came out to learn from each other and move forward.
In a year where policing has been under a microscope, an Arkansas police officer is trying to bridge the gap between officers and the communities they serve through social media.
By posting short, fun videos, Officer Tommy Norman of North Little Rock has become a social media star with more than one million followers, spreading his message of community policing nationwide. He attended an Operation Blue Shield event at Concord Church in Red Bird Wednesday night.
“You should get out of your police car. Visit with people every day, even if it's just a couple minutes a day,” Norman said. “Let people know you beyond that uniform, beyond that badge. Let them get to know you as a real person.”
Norman’s posts have not only changed his own community but also have inspired fellow police officers like Rose Samson, who's in her first year at the Greenville Police Department.
“I think he does a real good job of that, letting them know we're here to help you and to help make the community better,” she said. “I think it sends a message to all police officers we need to get back into doing that.”
Samson is one of several officers and community members who came out to see Officer Norman and hear about his method of community policing.
“That as police officers, they should lead with their heart,” Norman said. “That your badge should have a heartbeat and not an ego.”
It's a message that Dallas Interim Police Chief David Pughes hopes will inspire his officers to show who they are beyond the badge.
“If you do it right and you make relationships and you talk to people and you break down those barriers, and they see we're humans just like you are. This is just an outfit we wear,” said Pughes.
Since blowing up on social media, Officer Norman now travels the country to speak about community policing at events in addition to his job as a police officer.