SPRINGDALE (KFSM) -- In light of the recent attacks, a nationwide effort to bridge the gap between law enforcement and citizens has arrived in Northwest Arkansas on Tuesday (July 19).
Representatives from seven different police departments, including Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, Siloam Springs, Springdale, along with the University of Arkansas Police Department and the Washington County Sheriff's Office gathered at the Springdale City Administration Building to work on strengthening a bond which has appeared to crack in other communities around the country.
The open house was planned after recent events between police officers and communities.
Several city leaders also attended the event, including Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse, Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan and Siloam Springs Mayor John Mark Turner, who all expressed their desire of a respectful police-resident relationship.
"It's not only informational, but it's also an opportunity for us to hear back from our residents," Sprouse said. " About ideas they have and about gaps that they may see, that we need to be able to address to again, keep our communities safe."
Community members were also present, including Bentonville resident Erika Jennings, who called Tuesday's event "humanizing".
"I definitely think events like this help," Jennings said. "I think putting faces to names, sort of humanizing both sides."
She said an open dialog is a great first step to ensuring stronger bond between officers and minorities, but signaled that there's still more that can be done in bridging the gap.
"I think there's just a huge opportunity to actually get out of their vehicles and get out into the community," Jennings said. "To understand who we are as a community and for us to understand who they are as police officers."
Law enforcement officers, such as Steve Gahagans, police chief of the University of Arkansas Police Department, the event served as a way to detail the proactive steps being taken in the college community.
"We feel prepared, but you don't rest easy. You don't take if for granted," Gahagans said. "You have the discussions, you continue with your training and you continue dialog with your community."
Dialog extended into other minority groups, including the local LGBT community.
"It also sends the message that we are a community that celebrates the diversity of our citizens," said Susan Hartman, executive director for NWA Center for Equality. "We are a community that is committed to working as a unified group."