Kiser’s BBQ and West Side Wingery provided food to the event, which aimed to better communication between locals and law enforcement.
Zack Weese wasn’t planning on eating barbecue with some cops on Wednesday outside Baker Center.
“I was on my way to a function here at Baker, and I saw the food,” Weese, a senior studying violin performance, said. “I talked to the people in line about how cool it was for the police to provide this. They seemed friendly today. They were smiling, and they seemed to be having a good time.”
The Joint Police Advisory Council hosted the JPAC BBQ from 6 to 8 p.m., which featured free wings, pulled pork, and coleslaw from West Side Wingery and Kiser’s BBQ. Officers from Ohio University Police Department and the Athens Police Department were in attendance, along with two APD horses and Alex, OUPD K-9 officer.
Members of OUPD, APD, city government, Ohio University and Athens residents make up JPAC. According to its website, JPAC’s mission is “to improve communication between the town and the University as it relates to safety and law enforcement issues.”
Like other events such as Coffee with a Cop, the Police-Community BBQ aimed to humanize law enforcement to community members, Tim Woodyard, OUPD K-9 handler, said.
“We want them to see that we’re just people,” Woodyard said.
The BBQ provides a different form of interaction between the town and police, OUPD Lieutenant Tim Ryan said.
“It’s an opportunity for the police and community to interact on a more casual level,” Ryan said. “When we show up, it’s usually an emergency situation. There’s no time to get to know each other.”
Councilman Steve Patterson, D-At Large, and chair of JPAC, said he was satisfied with the turnout.
“The crowd is comparable to last year,” Patterson said. “It doesn’t hurt that we have food.”
The free food drew in some students who weren’t planning on attending the event.
Rachel Burgess, a senior studying nursing, said she came because she was hungry. She was happy to see law enforcement participating in community outreach, Burgess said.
“I think it’s great that the police is giving back to the community,” Burgess said. “They get a bad rap, but they do a lot of good, too.”
The BBQ highlighted differences between American law enforcement and the law enforcement in his home country, Sharif Wahab, a graduate student studying international development strategies, said.
“I’m from Bangladesh, where there’s more of a gap between the common people and law enforcement,” Wahab said. “If back in my country the police could host something like this, I think it would lessen the gap between them and the people.”