The sun was shining, the music was blaring, and the community turned out in droves for the Casper Police Department's first-ever Downtown Block Party, held Wednesday evening in front of the Hall of Justice in Casper.

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It was truly a sight to behold, as families gathered on David Street for an evening of food, fun, and focused service. It was an act to commemorate National Police Week but, even more than that, it was an act designed to show the community that the Casper PD is working for us, not against us.

"This is our first-ever Police Week Block Party," said Public Information Officer Rebekah Ladd. "Especially after the last year, with police tensions in the U.S., and COVID, and not really being able to do something like this, we really thought the time was right to just have a block party. We wanted to grill and invite the community out and really give people the opportunity to get to know us."

That's exactly what happened, as Casper PD officers played basketball, posed for pictures, showed kiddos the insides of their patrol vehicles, and more. They cooked burgers and hot dogs for hungry families and reminded the community that they are, in fact, there to serve.

"Typically, when you see a police officer, it's not on the best day of your life," Ladd said. "You're getting pulled over or, perhaps, there's some other tragedy going on, and there's really not an opportunity for us to build those relationships in the way that we want. And we feel really passionate here, at the Casper Police Department, that those relationships, and being intentional, and getting to know our community is really what keeps our community safe, for years and years and years."

And that, according to Ladd, is the biggest mission of the Casper Police Department - to keep the community safe. Putting on more events like this throughout the year is an attempt to remind the community, just like those old Mr. Do posters in the library, that "The Police Officer is Your Friend."

"We're really excited to start this tradition and just spend time with our community," Ladd stated. "We want to give them the opportunity to come get to know us, eat some great food, and let us serve you."

And, judging from the looks of it, that was exactly the thing that the Casper community needed. It wasn't just a chance to spend some time with the CPD; it was a chance to spend some time with each other. After a year-and-a-half of isolation, the community was eager to spend some time in the sun with their friends and family while music played, smoke from a grill filled the air, and laughter permeated off the walls.

It felt normal. It felt easy. It felt, well, safe.

"I'm a bit taken aback [by the turnout]," Ladd said. "We know that we're supported at the Casper Police Department. We know that the city of Casper is unlike any other in the U.S. But to have so many people take the time out of their day, on a Wednesday night, to show up with their kids; we're kind of at a loss for words."

Personally, Ladd said, this event spoke to her heart and reminded her why she is so proud to live in a town like Casper.

"It means a lot to me as a member of the Police Department, as a citizen of Casper" she said. "And I know it means so much to our officers who, again, really only get to interact with the community on calls every day. To see all of these people show up and say 'Hey, we support you. We're with you. We're proud and excited that you're doing this job,' it means a lot to them. And I think that stays with the officers every day when they're out there doing their job."

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