Tuscaloosa Police bridging gap between law enforcement, community

Img 4659
pal gym

By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Zhoeé Williams

The Tuscaloosa Police Department is focused on ensuring its officers hitting the streets don’t stop learning when they finish their training. Instead, they’re in classes on community policing, de-escalation and other imperative techniques so their interactions with those they serve go smoothly for everyone involved.

Major cases of police brutality like the recent death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis are a sign of law enforcement abandoning their duty to the public, and that’s the last thing TPD wants among its ranks, said TPD Officer and Police Athletic League Director Princess Norwood.

“I think pretty much all cops are pretty good when they have the proper training,” Norwood said. “It’s just that they get comfortable with doing certain things they’ve gotten away with. They’ve gotten away with small things, and it just tends to grow. Maybe it is a lack of supervision and peer influence when they see stuff like that escalating again.”

TPD offers training every month, Norwood said.

“We’ve done de-escalation training, and I think they added in this time the peer-to-peer interference. We’ve also done communication training,” said Norwood.

Residents who see major cases of police brutality are likely to put up walls between themselves and law enforcement, so bridging that gap is something TPD focused on.

That’s especially important in low-income areas and for under-served children.

“These days, the biggest issue is our youth,” said Norwood. “We have the (Police Athletic League) gym, which is open to children 6 to 18, we have activities for seniors like knitting and fitness classes. It’s something to get them out of the house. We also offer free fitness classes to the community.”

In the summer, the PAL will be hosting a children’s basketball league. An in-construction outdoor basketball court will also be completed in the next few years, offering kids and parents a space where they can shoot some hoops any time.

Norwood said another goal of hers is getting Black girls together in the community through a seminar called My Sisters in Me. She’s searching for speakers and community leaders who can speak with the girls and answer any questions they may not get answered at home.

If anyone is interested in getting involved with bridging the gap, Norwood said they’re welcome to stop by the PAL gym and talk with her.

“I have people who like to come in and ask to start a class with the kids,” Norwood said. “For instance, an older lady came in and did a knitting class with the kids. We’re trying to get more community programs out right now. If there’s going to be an event, I make sure to post it via Facebook. There are opportunities for people who are willing to help the community.”

If you can’t donate your time, your dollars can also go a long way, she said.

“Every year we do the backpack giveaway, and we do the Christmas giveaway to the PAL kids who come to the gym,” Norwood said. “Regular kids come down to the gym all year long, and we give them a wish list and they get to fill out things that they would like to have. Most kids ask for bikes because they live in the neighborhood and would like to ride around, but of course, we ask them about essentials first.”

Norwood said TPD is able to do this thanks to donations given to the PAL program.

“The backpack giveaway uses donated money, we go out and buy school supplies and we pack the backpacks ourselves,” Norwood said. “Last year we packed about 300 backpacks and numbers tend to grow every year.”

Norwood said she encourages the kids who attend to do better in school and rewards them for good grades and good deeds.

The betterment of the community doesn’t stop at the children, it continues with the adults and the police force.

Norwood said TPD is always hiring, and they’re always looking for people with community skills, good people skills and residents who are passionate about where they live and their neighbors.

“A Tuscaloosa officer has to be passionate about building that relationship back with the community to where you can go into a community and people aren’t afraid to talk to you when things happen,” said Norwood.

You can learn more about the Tuscaloosa Police Department right here.

Categories: Local News