Many people might be alarmed at the sight of a dozen police officers in their yard. Not Neil and Kim Derrick.
The couple hosted officers from Columbia Police Department’s south region C-squad at their South Walker Street home in Shandon Thursday night.
The gathering was part of the agency’s new “Front Porch Roll Call” program, which moves a squad’s pre-shift roll call from police headquarters out into the neighborhoods the officers patrol.
Roll call happens twice daily before every shift, at 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Before a shift, officers go over recent crimes or trends in the regions they patrol and share information that might be useful. A supervisor inspects their uniforms and equipment before giving them their patrol assignments and answering any last-minute questions.
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Front Porch Roll Call takes that meeting and puts it in the front yard of a home in the area patrolled by that squad and shift. Since Columbia police implemented the program earlier in the fall, the south region’s C-squad has held 16 such roll calls, usually on a weekly basis, according to Sgt. Christopher Morris.
The initiative was modeled after similar programs at other agencies and in the same vein as Coffee with a Cop.
“There’s a wall between us and people as we ride up and down the street in our cars,” Morris said. “Most people don’t see us until something bad happens and they’re at their worst.”
Neil Derrick, 65, said his wife signed them up to host a roll call after seeing a posting about it on their community’s Facebook page. They have a friend who works in law enforcement and said they want to help bridge the gap between police and the community.
“We’ve got a police connection, but the police don’t get the credit they deserve,” he said. “They get up in the morning and, unlike me or you, they don’t know if they’re coming home at night.”
A table filled with donuts, hot chocolate and candy canes greeted officers and residents on a chilly night.
After Cpl. Carl Brown inspected uniforms and equipment, an officer read over reports from two recent car break-ins in the area. At the point when he usually answers his officers’ questions, Brown instead turned it over to the residents for them to ask questions
One man asked what kinds of calls officers typically respond to, and a woman asked how often they get calls about stolen packages around the holidays. There were also words of appreciation as things wound down.
“We appreciate y’all very much,” Julie Webster said to the group.
Less than 24 hours after a Columbia officer was stabbed while responding to a shoplifting call, Lt. J.P. Williams offered an extra word of caution to the shift. “Y’all be diligent,” he said. “Don’t get caught up on these calls that seem routine. That can happen to anybody standing here.”
Dale Culbreth, who has lived on South Walker Street for 15 years, said she appreciated the police mingling with neighborhood residents and sharing helpful information and advice.
“It was nice just to learn what’s going on in the neighborhood and meet the officers,” she said. “I like the fact that they were willing to say, ‘Here’s our number; give us a call.’”
Anyone interested in hosting a Front Porch Roll Call at their home should call the Columbia Police Department at (803) 545-3500.