In a country where the conversation around policing, race and justice has grown more and more divisive by the day, some in Fulton set out to promote understanding in Carver Park on Saturday afternoon.
Dozens of uniformed Fulton Police Department officers and local families gathered in the park from noon-3:30 p.m. for a meet and greet.
In his blessing of the meal, Fulton City Council member Bob Washington emphasized the importance of coming together.
"It is important that we can form relationships with our officers because we are family," Washington said.
The event was organized by community member Cecil Brandt who wanted to promote positive interactions.
"We're just kind of bringing the community together," Brandt said. "We don't know the police officers — we want to know those guys, and we want them to know who we are."
Conversation flowed as officers like Sgt. Lance Reams spoke one on one with attendees about their jobs. Reams entertained many of the children, turning on his patrol car's lights.
Some discussions veered to other important subjects — David Trammell of the Community Connections Youth Project spoke about services for foster care youth, and some casual conversations centered on the future of the George Washington Carver School, a local landmark many are working to preserve.
Brandt was happy to see many new faces at the event. Police officers and community members trickled in and out — at times, the shelter at Carver Park was full of people chatting and enjoying hot dogs and hamburgers made by Chubby Underwood, despite the cool weather and drizzling rain.
Underwood grilled the hot dogs, while his wife, Carolyn Underwood, flipped hamburgers made with beef raised on their local farm.
Attendee Kaye Stroter agreed it is important for law enforcement and the community to interact.
"I feel that when you smile at people and you talk to people, you form a bond," Stroter said. "Community really is the key. If you don't come out and you don't look at people in the eye and you don't smile, you're not really supporting each other."
It's important to back up words with action, Stroter said.
"And you have to back up what you say," Stroter said. "Don't just talk about it, be on it."
Fulton Police Chief Steve Myers said he knew it was important for his officers to attend.
"It's pretty important," Myers said simply. "I just got out of the hospital yesterday, so I'm supposed to not be here, but I think this is a very important event."
Myers said he hopes to have similar events in the coming months.
"We can't do policing without our community, and our community is a part of policing and what we do," he said. "We have to help each other to have a safe community."