I truly enjoyed our Saturday morning cleanups earlier this year. It’s amazing how many things can be accomplished in a couple hours: enjoyment of our Sonoran desert, beautifying a space in need, neighbors meeting neighbors, and quiet, important conversations between community leaders, elected representatives, sometimes non-uniformed law enforcement – and the people we serve. Just people meeting people, picking up trash, and dancing in the street to oldies. (Also, pan dulce and donuts at the end of cleanup.)
In late May, when the heat came in, we didn’t want to bring out volunteers. I give all credit to my husband who turned to me late one night and said, “On your Saturdays, you could do police ride-alongs this summer, lots of them.”
I’ll admit that it’s not the thing “reform D.A.s” have necessarily been doing in this nationwide movement, but it landed with me as something important – a way to become more directly informed. And thus began the summer of ride-alongs, which ended just this week. There is simply no substitute for this kind of real-life learning. I met hundreds of hard workers, I compared the cultures – and the call loads! – of our various agencies, and I had a couple of hair-raising, heart-racing, 60-mph adventures through town.
On Thursday, it was a privilege to meet with Pima Community College PD Deputy Chief Michelle Nieuwenheis and several of her officers and investigators (pictured) to discuss their caseload (especially mental health-related cases) and the kinds of incidents they’re called upon to resolve. It was illuminating and poignant and, often, filled with banter and laughter. I’m grateful to them – and every single agency and commanding officer with whom I met this summer – for their time and graciousness.
I know that, by next summer, I’ll be anxious to return to the departments for a refresher course.
In the meantime, with cooler weather approaching, we will now be returning to Community Cleanups very soon. If you would like to collaborate, ask them to contact Patrick Robles, PCAO Community Outreach Coordinator, by email: