In a communications initiative aimed at spreading positivity, the Scarborough Police Department’s REAL Cops program is highlighting the ways officers support the community. From left to right: Lauren Dembski-Marten, social services coordinator; Police Chief Robert Moulton; Arthur Green, dispatcher; Deputy Chief Dave Grover; Community Resource Sgt. Steve Thibodeau.  Catherine Bart photo

SCARBOROUGH — A new communications initiative aiming to showcase the positives of the Scarborough Police, REAL Cops, allows the public to have an insider’s view of the department.

REAL Cops, “Respectful, Empathetic, Accountable Law Enforcement,” is a recently launched collaborative effort between the Scarborough Police Department and Victoria Green, a senior marketing communications major at Husson University, said Chief Robert Moulton.

Green created two videos featuring interviews with different officers on topics involving community, which Scarborough Police has begun sharing on its Facebook page @ScarboroughPD, Moulton said. Another part of the campaign will highlight some of the “above and beyond” work officers have done.

A “Where’s Marlea” series will feature photographs of the department’s emotional support dog at mystery locations around town, with commenters guessing where Marlea is in each post, Moulton said.

Lauren Dembski-Marten, the town’s social services coordinator, said the program will run through May and into June, with posts going up a couple times a week.

Green’s father, Arthur Green, has been a dispatcher with the department for 20 years, making the Scarborough Police feel like family, she said.

“Through this project, I was able to learn more about the amazing things that the department’s officers have done,” Green said. “I am very excited to share their stories with the community.”

One of the purposes of the REAL Cops program is to show a positive side of the Police Department, said Moulton.

“I think we can show people who we are and what we really do and how much we care for the folks in our community,” he said. “I think if you listen to the national narrative, you would believe police officers are bad people, and that’s not what I see every day. I see some great people, compassionate, respectful, and who are about people. I just wanted to have an opportunity to showcase that.”

Rather than trying to prove what the Scarborough Police is not, the department is focusing on showing people who the officers and staff members are, Moulton said.

“It’s like anything else,” he said. “If you don’t know any teachers or lawyers or doctors and you start hearing negative comments about that general group , maybe you could buy into that, but at the same time, if you knew some people who were doctors and lawyers and teachers and said, ‘Boy, that just doesn’t sound like the people I know’ — hopefully, that gives people pause to not buy into some of that negativity.”

Showcasing the day-to-day work of officers can help change people’s perception of the police, said Dembski-Marten. Many don’t see the times officers provide assistance, like helping someone change a flat tire on the side of the road.

“Behind closed doors we’re able to see this humane, compassionate nature of our officers and those who we work with, and I think this sort of highlights that,” she said. “The public doesn’t always get to see that, but I’m a social worker here and I’m always so impressed by the way our officers interact with people, just their compassion, their genuineness. This helps exemplify that and it helps to show that humane nature that really does exist behind closed doors.”

Last August, officers took it upon themselves to provide essentials like sunscreen and food to homeless individuals, Moulton said. These small acts off kindness do not align with what negative national coverage of police nor with what Moulton sees in Scarborough.

“I don’t think we necessarily need to do that,” he said about such assistance. “It’s not spelled out in our job descriptions or anything, but I think it’s the right thing to do and we didn’t tell (the officers) to do that. They’ve done that on their own. So those are the kinds of people we see every day, and when you hear about all of these bad things you think, ‘Wow, that’s not what it looks like here.'”

The Scarborough Police Department often works with other town departments on projects and efforts not always seen by residents, said Green.

“When we have positive events that are taking place in the community or as far as partnering with our schools, I think people see that more often, but another example is our Public Works Department,” he said. “Our dispatch center and our patrol officers are an integral part in our winter operations as far as keeping the roads safe and public works does a great job with that. We try to partner with them to communicate because we have people out there 24/7 on the roads. Between the officers and the dispatchers, that communication makes a big difference, I think, for them and for us.”

Community resource officers are other members of the department who try to connect citizens with police, Sgt. Steve Thibodeau said. Their work can involve installing signs on Scarborough beaches or delivering Christmas presents to children.

Although there is a lot of negativity on a national scale, REAL Cops is meant to show the positives in Scarborough, Moulton said.

“If I have a hope, it’s that if you get to know us and you realize what we’re about and you see who we are and what we do, when you hear those negative things, I’m hoping that you would take a moment to reflect and think, ‘Jeez, that doesn’t sound like the people who I know,'” he said.

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