One Muncie Police Department officer has dedicated his Wednesday afternoons to bringing community leaders out on the road with him.
After having multiple conversations with his father, Chief Joe Winkle, about how the department could "boost the image" and get their "name out there," Chase Winkle decided to get the community involved by hosting ride-alongs during his shifts.
Even though the MPD is “busy and understaffed,” Chase said some officers engage with the community by playing basketball with kids or handing out Popsicles. But that isn't really his "style."
“I thought I could invite people from the community to get into the passenger seat and tag along with me,” he said.
The officer has now hosted six ride-alongs with people from multiple churches and organizations around Muncie.
For Chase, the end goal is to have community members feel comfortable when talking to the department.
“I think it gives them the personnel to reach out to,” Chase said. “My hope is that by the time we get done riding they would feel comfortable to pick up the phone and call me if they had an issue or something to deal with.”
While riding with Chase, community leaders like Pastor Andre Mitchell of the Deliverance Temple, have joined in responding to multiple emergency situations.
“We had a range of calls," Mitchell said. "We had mental health, domestic violence calls ... calls about another officer in a foot pursuit, a couple of handgun calls. The one that stood out the most was about a dog mauling an individual.”
In that situation, Mitchell witnessed an individual call 911 and ask for the officers not to shoot the dog. When arriving to the scene, officers were able to avoid shooting the animal, but Mitchell said “it was a bloody situation.”
“They are seeing some of the community’s needs directly," Chase said. "Whether it’s how many mental health calls we deal with or how many addiction calls we deal with a day. I think most of these people know it’s there but now they are seeing how prevalent of an issue it is."
During the ride along, Chase said he uses the time to discuss ways to make a change and solve issues in the community.
“Most of the conversations we’ve had with riders is ways for them to get people involved with the police department or get people involved in the community to make some change,” he said. "I have walked away from these ride-alongs more inspired than I expected to."
If members of the community are interested in riding along with an officer, contact the Muncie Police Chief's Office at 765-747-4822.