The scent of burgers and hot dogs filled the air at Robert Rowley Park in Bellport on Friday, July 15, as part of the Suffolk County Police Department Fifth Precinct’s Unity Day event.
Suffolk County community leaders, including police officers from the Fifth and Seventh Precincts, legislators and church members, united with members of the community to break bread and gain a better understanding and appreciation of each other.
The Fifth Precinct came up with the idea to have a Unity Day event after hosting a different event called “Coffee with a Cop,” which they held at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Bellport, according to John Sumwalt, inspector at the Fifth Precinct.
“It’s an opportunity for us to engage with the community, and we all know that a strong community has built things like this event,” Sumwalt said. “Sometimes things in the streets get a little tense, but you come here, everyone’s together; it shows the partnership with everyone to try to make this community succeed.”
Sumwalt hopes that having the community come together for Unity Day can help break down misconceptions about police officers.
“We’re just like everybody else; we have a job to do, and our job is to help make it as safe as it can be,” Sumwalt said. “And interacting with the kids, letting them come up to us [and] see us in this environment is a lot different than us coming into the house affairs or domestic in the house, or we’re looking for someone. So this is a great opportunity. Just looking at the smiles on the kids’ faces as they went through the sprinklers here, it’s just great.”
Other groups present at the Unity Day event included Molloy College Community Care, Fidelis Care Insurance, Health First Insurance, Girl Scouts of Suffolk County, Air National Guard, the Bellport Boys and Girls Club, the Cornerstone Christian Cultural Center and Journey Church.
“We need to have more Unity Days. Unity Day is a great event where people from the police department, the community [and] the religious community come together and put some of this anger aside,” said Dominick Thorne, 7th district legislator. “These are good officers. They’re amazing people that actually care about each and every person in the community.”
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