May 30, 2021
Community event recognized law enforcement’s commitment.
Safety and security are essential for a healthy community and play a key supporting role in Martin City’s revitalization effort. Kansas City Police are our partners and we recently welcomed an opportunity to stop for a few hours and say thank you for their help.
“It was just a good idea that came together naturally,” says Martin City Community Improvement District Manager Vickie Wolgast. “The location of our Martin City Community Tree in the center of our neighborhood is becoming a focal point for events, and our Community Interaction Officers thought it would be the perfect spot to bring people together on a day like this.”
Officers Mary McCall and Aaron Whitehead are the Community Interaction Officers who keep an eye on Martin City. They’ve been working with the Martin City Community Improvement District for about three years and both have been Kansas City police officers for nearly two decades.
“We really liked the idea of organizing Law Enforcement Appreciation Day in Martin City specifically to help raise awareness about the neighborhood,” says McCall. “Good things are happening in Martin City and we’re happy to draw attention to it.”
“I’ve lived in South Kansas City all my life and served here many years as an officer,” says Whitehead. “It’s hard to describe how proud I am of what’s happening across the area now. The progress in Martin City is happening in big steps. Giant steps.”
Every police officer is community-minded, but as Community Interaction Officers, McCall and Whitehead invest more of their time and effort into building relationships to make the community stronger and safer. They stay in close touch with business owners and help guide conversations about security as the community plans its future.
“We’ve known some of these business owners long enough that they feel more like friends,” says McCall with a smile that defines her first impression. “Some have our direct phone numbers and it’s always great to see them around and just say hi.”
“That’s what good relationships between a community and police officers are all about,” adds Whitehead. “Keeping lines of communication open. Ongoing conversations with residents and business owners build trust and collaboration that can prevent so many problems before they have a chance to take root.”
Familiarity also builds trust. Just seeing officers around the neighborhood helps all of us view them more like real people who share our interests. They don’t need to wait for an emergency to show up, and that’s why the event in the parking lot of KC Running Company on 135th Street was so important. It had nothing to do with a 911 call. Police showed off an interesting collection of law enforcement tools and provided a bunch of freebies for kids, just for fun.
“I love Martin City K-8!” exclaimed Sergeant Kathy Coots when we dropped by the Youth Services tent she was hosting. “I’ve been an officer for over 25 years, and I enjoy my work at the school more than anything I’ve done. The kids there are so wonderful. When I walk in, some of them will ask me to have lunch with them and it just makes my heart melt.”
Coots teaches a ten-week D.A.R.E program at the school that’s about more than preaching an anti-drug message. She talks about smart ways of handling conflict, like bullying, and how to deal with day-to-day stress. Role-playing is one of her favorite methods for encouraging independent thinking and confidence in challenging situations.
“I work closely with the kids for the entire program, and at the end, they write essays that always impress me. They really absorb what we talk about. It’s just so gratifying. I feel like I’m making a difference.”
While Coots raves about the kids at Martin City K-8, she heaps just as much praise on teachers and administrators. “I can’t say enough about them. They make those children feel so loved. I just can’t wait to have fun with all of them and the students on field day at the end of the year.”
The pandemic still has people reluctant to come out for public events, and on this particular day, the rain was a constant threat. But a surprising number of families turned out to show their support and get to know the police. There were smiles and pats on the back and a sense of pride that was distinctly Martin City.
“We’re working to help more neighborhood groups get going like Martin City has,” says McCall. “Martin City is a model for what’s possible. Just look around and you can see what happens when people band together like the Martin City Community Improvement District has done here. There’s beautification with things like new sidewalks and landscaping, and you can just feel a strong sense of ownership in the community. Everyone’s pulling together to make Martin City all it can be.”
“We go to the MCCID meetings and enjoy contributing where we can when we’re out and about. It’s the best part of my job,” says Whitehead. “I don’t like making arrests. That’s not a part of my job that I enjoy at all. What I love is supporting the community. There’s a feeling in Martin City that we need to take care of each other and that’s the key to making all of Kansas City better as well.”
Thank you Officers McCall and Whitehead for all you do! And thank you to the Kansas City Missouri Police Department and surrounding law enforcement agencies for helping us put together this event in the heart of our community. Here’s to the end of pandemic isolation and much better days ahead, together.
Want to organize a similar community event with Kansas City Police? Contact Community Interaction Officers in your area for more information. Tell them Martin City sent you!
South Patrol Division
Officer Mary McCall
Officer Aaron Whitehead
Central Patrol Division
Officer Andy Hamil
Officer Char Sanders
East Patrol Division
Officer Edwin Gordillo
Officer Patrick Byrd
Metro Patrol Division
Officer Richard Marquez
Officer Bryan Masterson
North Patrol Division
Officer Robert Pavlovic
Officer Lance Lenz