HARRISONBURG — The Harrisonburg Police Department will begin its new Splash Pass program, which aims to bring officers and youth together through positive experiences.
In an interview Monday, Harrisonburg Police Chief Eric English said he expects the program will begin Friday.
The program is a collaboration between the police department and the Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation Department.
Officers will reward youth, younger than 18 years old, with a free day pass to Westover Pool and the new splash pad if they are seen doing something positive in the community.
“We want to catch kids doing something positive and reward those kids for their actions,” English said. “It’s important for officers and our youth to have positive interactions and relationships.”
There are about 60 officers who will be involved, English said, including patrol officers, the traffic division and community resource officers.
English, who was sworn in as the city’s new police chief on Sept. 10, had a lot of projects he wanted to get up to speed in the city.
One of the big-ticket items he focuses on is positive engagement between law enforcement and the community.
“Anytime we can reward kids and they can see us in a positive light outside of us arresting kids or coming to homes in times of need is a good thing,” he said. “I think this program is a step forward with what we are trying to accomplish.”
English said there are 200 pool passes, “so we are trying to impact 200 kids.”
Once the pool closes, English hopes the police department and parks and recreation can collaborate on another project for the fall and winter.
English said Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation Director Luanne Santangelo brought the idea to him.
Harrisonburg’s Marketing and Special Projects Coordinator Brittany Clem said Monday that with the recent opening of the splash pad in May, the parks and recreation department wanted to find ways to get the community to utilize the splash pad.
“We want to promote the splash pad and what better way to promote it than to also promote our police officers and first responders and what they do?” she said.
“With this splash pass program, we can acknowledge them while also rewarding the good going on with the kids in the community.”
She said if the police officers go through the 200 passes before the pool closes for the season, more passes could be made available.
Along with the new program, the police department also conducts monthly community walks and hosts events, such as the Harrisonburg Police Foundation Adventure Race, which will be held Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1010 Greendale Road.
The 2019 Adventure Race program consists of two events — a 5k timed obstacle course and a SWAT challenge course.
The SWAT challenge is $90 plus a $2.16 sign-up fee and begins at 8:30 a.m. The 5k is $60 with a $1.44 sign-up fee and also begins at 8:30 a.m. Registration ends Thursday at noon. To sign up, visit https://www.adventuresignup.com/Race/VA/Harrisonburg/HPFAdventureRace.
There will also be a K-9 demonstration and an open house where every specialty unit will interact with the community and answer questions about how each unit operates, English said.
Clem said there will also be a Touch a Truck event at the Westover Pool area Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. where youth can interact with the fire department first responders and see two firetrucks close up.
The Virginia Department of Transportation employees will also be at the event.
“VDOT will be there because they also have first responders who, for example, have to go out and respond to bad roadways during a snowstorm,” she said.
The event is free to the public.
“We see a lot of interest in these types of events so we like to do them whenever we can,” Clem said.