Online Exclusive

Hundreds Turn Out for S.C. Police Unity Day

Alvin Lemon was checking out a police display of guns and bulletproof vests when he was invited to test out the weight of a battering ram.

"That's heavy," the James Island resident joked afterward, clearly pleased with the chance to interact with law enforcement. "I feel like the police department is vital to the city. They make a difference, and their presence is important."

Lemon was among hundreds who came out to Police Community Unity Day at Brittlebank Park, a gathering organized by Sen. Robert Ford and Rep. Wendell Gilliard, both Charleston Democrats, and the Charleston Police Department's Weed and Seed program.

The kind of positive interaction Lemon had was exactly what those coordinating the day hoped to facilitate. State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel traveled to Charleston for the Saturday event, and said he was glad the public had the chance to interact in a good way with police.

"Communities ought to do more of this," he said. "It makes law enforcement seem human. It creates goodwill."

Ford said the black community historically hasn't had a good relationship with police, and this was an effort to bring them together. The event has been hosted for the last 12 years.

The afternoon festivities went beyond police informational booths. Attendees could dine on free hamburgers and hot dogs and take in entertainment provided by dancers. Despite 90-plus degree temperatures, a breeze blew off the Ashley River and into the group congregating behind Riley Park and helped keep the mood upbeat.

Tracey Green wanted to get out of the house with her niece and granddaughter, and she decided the unity event was a good place to do that. It was her first time attending, and she was pleased with what she found.

"It's nice, very nice, especially if you have nothing planned to do," she said.