COLONIE — On Friday, June 11, police officers traded in their guns and badges for hotdogs and hamburgers.
“Tonight, I am not a police officer or a police lieutenant. I’m just a guy who is going to try to beat you in a punt, pass and kick competition up on the field,” said Lt. Harry Henry Rosenzweig, a member of the department’s Community Service Unit who organized the picnic for residents. “We were a little overwhelmed with the turnout, but we had a bunch of volunteers and it seems to be going OK.”
The picnic, held at the West Albany Pocket Park, was the first of its kind in at least 15 years in Colonie and was designed to get the community and the police officers together in an informal setting so they get to know each other.
“I think this is great for the community and the kids to come out and be involved with the police. They become familiar faces, and it’s a way to see what the police officers actually do and who they really are,” said Valencia Rogers, who was at the picnic with her family. “An informal setting makes a big difference. It’s more relaxed when you are eating with them and enjoying the weather and networking and meeting new people. I think they should do this every year.”
There were free burgers and dogs, carnival type games for the children, a punt, pass and kick competition on the athletic field and people could check out the inside of police vehicles and/or sit on a police motorcycle. There was also a K9 demonstration and some good old fashioned face-to-face chit-chat unfiltered by a cell phone or computer.
“It’s something we have wanted to do for a long time. It’s a way to connect to the community and the kids. There are a lot of kids here,” said Chief Jonathan Teale looking around at the crowd. “I want people to know we are there for them and that is what this is all about.”
He said about a year ago, a Siena poll found the department had a 91 percent approval rating among the residents of Colonie, and things like the picnic are a way to maintain that popularity.
“I think it’s good for the children to interact with the police and know they are friends and they can go to a police officer if they need them,” said resident Melissa France who was at the picnic. “There is too often a stigma attached to being a cop, but this way, in a setting like this, the children might not feel intimidated. This is something like an everyday environment and here they are, mingling.”
The event was sponsored by the Police Department, the department’s various unions, and from businesses throughout the community. There is a similar event slated for the north end of town, at the Kiwanis Club on Route 9, in two weeks.