Focused community outreach initiatives are born out of an understanding that police cannot go it alone. We cannot begin to address the complex issues affecting our quality of life without assistance from citizens and the many diverse groups who work in and for the community. The Madison Police Department believes strongly in community policing. Community policing is a philosophy rooted in relationship-building and based on the belief that cultivating positive, trust-based, collaborative, support relationships will result in reduced crime, lower incidences of violence, increased quality of life, individual accountability/sense of responsibility, and bolstered citizen stewardship, all of which combine to create a safe community for everyone. One such longstanding community outreach initiative is MPD's Amigos en Azul program.
Amigos en Azul is a complement of volunteer police officers from the City of Madison and other Dane County area agencies who have dedicated themselves to the work of dissolving cultural barriers and opening lines of communication between the Hispanic Community and police. Amigos en Azul is easily one of the Madison Police Department's best illustrations of police officers reaching out to members of our Latino community in an effort to listen, explain, collaborate, celebrate, mentor, teach and assist our citizens in meeting a variety of needs. Our officers relish the opportunity to use this group as a means for expanding the ideals of policing beyond traditional "law enforcement" in breaking down real or perceived barriers while fostering greater levels of trust and communication. Seeing our officers in this context – the individuals behind the badge – personalizes the contacts we have and strengthens our ability to provide professional services to a much greater extent.
Beginning in 2015, the Department has tethered this grassroots program initiative to our newly established Community Outreach section in an effort to provide more consistent support and coordination for the work that Amigos en Azul has been doing for years. Examples of recent activities that Amigos en Azul officers have engaged in include working with our Traffic Enforcement Safety Team, Safe Kids Madison, and American Family Insurance to provide our third annual Car Seat Safety Clinic at Wright Middle School. With support from La Movida Radio, this event succeeded in providing child seat safety information, offering free inspections, and distributing several donated car seats to those in need of one. Amigos en Azul officers conduct regular Public Service Announcements and other topical discussions through a standing radio spot generously provided by our partners at La Movida radio; they attend numerous relevant community meetings; and participate in various events such as Safety Saturday, as well as community festivals that occur throughout the year.
In addition, Amigos en Azul facilitates our annual Latino Youth Academy which is scheduled for later this month. Currently, Amigos en Azul is collaborating with Centro Hispano of Dane County and the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development to facilitate a South Side Summer Soccer Series. These youth soccer tournaments for kids ages 6-14 are scheduled for four Saturdays during the months of July and August (7/18, 7/25, 8/1, 8/8) at Madison's Penn Park. This fun event will culminate with a road trip with a number of the participating youth to watch the Chicago Fire professional soccer team in action!
Amigos en Azul is one of MPD's flagship community outreach programs and one of which we are very proud. But don't just take our word for it. Here's what a few of our community partners have to say about this program:
"Amigos en Azul are always willing to participate in community events. They have been essential in allowing the Madison Police Department to build trust in the Latino Community." (Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, City of Madison Common Council District 5 Alder)
"The work that the Madison Police Department and Amigos en Azul have done in the last decade has been vital for the development and improvement of the Latino Community in the Madison area." (Luis Montoto and Lupita Montoto, founders of La Movida Radio and Voz Latina Newspaper)
"Centro is a proud partner of Amigos en Azul. Law enforcement and community should go hand-in-hand when it comes to creating thriving neighborhoods and vibrant communities." (Karen Menendez Coller, Executive Director, Dane County Centro Hispano)
For more information on the South Side Summer Soccer Series contact PO Mike Alvarez at: firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about Amigos en Azul and other MPD Community Outreach programs contact Captain Kristen Roman at: email@example.com
This blog was authored by Captain Kristen Roman.