CLEVELAND (WJW) – Hoping to help bridge any gap between his community and the police who protect it, Darrell Houston offered to clean and sanitize Cleveland police cruisers on Monday.
Houston witnessed the May 30 demonstration in downtown Cleveland that started peacefully and escalated to the point that some in the crowd outside the Cuyahoga County Justice Center were setting fire to police cars.
“The agitators were just a handful. The majority of that event was peaceful, a lot of those people was working people, a lot of those people were registered voters and a lot of those people were business owners, and they just came down there to be a part of something positive,” Houston said.
On Monday, he intended to do something positive by showing respect and unity with Cleveland officers.
“I want my community to respect each and every person position, whether they are a police officer, an elected official or just a human being in the community. We have to learn how to respect one another and appreciate one another because if we don’t have police in the community, then we have anarchy in the community so we need the police,” Houston told FOX 8.
The officers themselves were grateful for the gesture.
“He supports us and in these times, that’s crazy. We need to hear that, we need to feel that so we can go out and do our jobs positively, and share the love with everyone,” said Cleveland Officer Crystal Lewis.
Houston was praised by the officers for hiring young people from the community to work at his car wash during the summer, giving them an job and an opportunity to do something constructive.
“As the juveniles are working on disinfecting our cars, I’m able to talk to them. Probably their first encounter with a police officer and it’s a positive one. Just being able to talk to them, being able to humanize the badge, let them know who I am and for them to be able to establish a relationship with us as a police officer,” said Officer Antonio Andino.
“It’s hard to have to interact with people who feel like all the police are bad, when they are not bad,” said Officer Ervin Lee, who lives in the same community.
“The reason I became a police officer is so that I could make a difference in what I do daily and so that’s why I’m a community engagement officer with the Fourth District. Not everyone has hatred towards the police not everyone feels like the police are wrong,” Lee said.
In addition to cleaning and sanitizing their cars, other local businesses chipped in to provide $10 gift cards for the officers.
Officers returned the favor by buying snacks and drinks for the young people who were helping clean their cars.
Officers also realize that Houston himself could choose to hold a grudge against police and the justice system after he had previously been wrongly imprisoned for 16 years because of a crime he did not commit. Instead, they see him as a supporter and an ally.
Houston said he knows a lot of work needs to be done to completely close the gap between police officers and those who do not trust them. He said he hopes his example will help others see that creating a bond and unifying the officers with their community is worth the work it might take.
“We have to get this together, we have to pass this along because the more we have these interactions the more we can communicate the better off we can figure things out,” Houston told the officers on Monday.
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