BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The slain officers and violence from last week were on a lot of people's minds during a police community event in Birmingham on Wednesday night.
Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper said a community walk was planned before the deadly officer-involved shootings and police killings in our country but he said because of those incidents, doing the walk was even more important.
"We just think it's important to engage our citizens and partner with them, talk to them," Chief Roper said.
Roper said now more than ever it's important for the department to build stronger relationships with people.
During a community walk in east Birmingham near Oporto-Madrid Boulevard, officers endured the heat to meet with people and visit businesses.
"We want to constantly work on the trust with the community members," Roper added. "We have to build safer communities and policing has to be part of that. So we have to have smart policing, we have to have strategic policing."
The chief and officers shook hands with people who were all appreciative. Maisha Jones spoke about why the community engagement means a lot to her.
"Shows they really do care about the community or they wouldn't be out here. It's 90 degrees, in a uniform actually. So just meeting them was a blessing to me," Jones said.
"Once upon a time I had no respect for police," said Sandy Kelley who lives in east Birmingham. "I wouldn't even stand here and talk to you (police)."
Kelley said that changed because he's gotten to know Birmingham officers personally over the years. That's why he's glad to see officers out of their patrols cars, on foot, interacting with people.
"Also learned not to judge every officer the same," Kelley said. "Because there are some good police officers. Get to know the officers that work in your community."
Roper was hoping to hear from people about what the department can do to better serve the public.
He feels there's a good relationship between the community and police but says there's always room for improvement.