FOREST PARK — A resident of Forest Park told city leaders this week she has a problem with younger members of the Forest Park Police Department.
Dianne Lunsford attended the city council meeting Monday with her husband Roy. She asked the council to speak to the head of the police department about young officers being “rude” to citizens.
“Please talk to the directors,” Lunsford asked the mayor and the city council. “We are citizens of Forest Park and we need to be treated with respect.”
Dianne Lunsford told the council she and her husband were in the second graduating class of the Forest Park Citizens Police Academy.
“One of the things they instilled in us was that we were on the same team with the police,” she said. “We interacted with each other and we knew each other. They told us that we were their eyes and ears, because they cannot be everywhere.”
Lunsford said she believed what she learned in the Citizens Police Academy and found it difficult to accept a rookie policeman’s behavior.
“It grieves me to see new police officers,” she continued. “We don’t feel like they care. You try to talk with them and they are short with you.”
Said Roy, “We just wanted them to be reminded that they should treat us with respect and be friendly with us.”
No one on the city council responded to Lunsford’s comments publicly. However, following the city council meeting the mayor and city manager defended their police department.
“We’ve got the best police officers,” said Forest Park Mayor Corine Deyton.
Forest Park City Manager John Parker said there are always two sides to every story, and the council has to take that into consideration.
“In the course of duty, officers must maintain control of any situation [and] sometimes this appearance is misunderstood by an individual receiving a citation,” said Parker. “Therefore an impression is left on a civilian that the officer is rude and possibly uncaring, but often times that is not the case.”
Forest Park Police Chief Dwayne Hobbs did not attend the meeting, but said he had some concerns about the complaint being made in an open forum by a Citizens Police Academy graduate.
“This is very unusual for someone to say that about our officers,” said the police chief. “We do have about a dozen new officers. Most of those guys would not be in the field by themselves. They are trained in the academy to see the public in a cooperative environment.”
Hobbs said the police department has neighborhood watch meetings, a Triad program for elderly residents, and a cadet program for young people who range in ages from 14 to 20. One of the purposes of each of those organizations is to get feedback from residents.
“So we can do better job,” Hobbs said. “So I have a lot of eyes and ears out there. We pride ourselves on being community-oriented and we have a number of outreach programs we offer to citizens.”
Hobbs said he would prefer complaints about his officers to come to his office, to ensure the problem is investigated in the proper manner.
“So rather than having one of our graduates of the police academy to go and complain about an anonymous officer to the city council, I would have rather they had called to me with specifics so I could have followed up on the complaint,” he said.