DALLAS - An Irving police officer is being honored by the U.S. Department of Justice for bridging the gap between police officers and the communities they serve.
It started about three years ago with the Shop Talk program - bringing police officers and neighbors together to get to know one another by talking in local barbershops and salons.
Officer Jon Plunkett has been working the streets in Irving for almost 30 years, but he decided in 2016 to take the job out of his patrol car.
The program started with just one barbershop, ago but it’s quickly grown to about 20 shops getting involved. Officers say it gives them a chance to meet the community where they are and reach residents they might not normally get a chance to interact.
“In the African American community, dealing with the police, they just don’t do it. It just doesn’t happen that often where they’re actually going in and calling the police saying, ‘Hey look, this is what’s going on in my neighborhood,’” Plunkett said. “This is where you have communications in the barbershops, this is where they talk.”
Shop owners were a bit skeptical at first.
“When it first came about I was like, dang, this is gonna be bad for business, I didn’t know,” said Jimmy McGee, owner, 1 Nice Cut Barbershop.
Officers and police leadership said the program has opened a line of communication.
“There’s no topic that’s off the table. We talk about sports, we talk about the Cowboys, obviously. We talk about what’s going on in the community from a crime standpoint,” said Irving PD Chief Jeff Spivey. “It’s a barbershop and people feel very comfortable and they get real with you. And sometimes it can be uncomfortable, but we need to hear that perspective.”
Now, whenever an officer has some time on patrol, they can stop in and just talk.
“They feel more comfortable being able to call us and say, ‘Hey look Plunkett, this is what’s going on,’” Plunkett said.
Officer Plunkett will be honored next month with the attorney general’s award for distinguished service in policing for his work starting the program.
Officials have partnered with local non-profit One Community to spread the program to other departments across the country, as well. Specifically, Irving PD has reached out to other departments like Dallas and Carrollton, about getting a similar program started in those areas.