Waco Police supported in addressing social determinants

By Telawna Kirbie

It is my pleasure to introduce a new program in our community called Waco Connect. This community-based program is a joint venture of both Prosper Waco and the Heart of Texas Region MHMR Center.

Social Determinants of Health

Our goal is to provide social care coordination to community members to promote physical and mental health with a focus on resources that address the “Social Determinants of Health” (SDoH). The World Health Organization defines SDoH as “the conditions in which we are born, grow, live, work and age.” 

The determinants include, but are not limited to, housing, financial stability, employment, education, transportation, both physical and psychological safety, as well as various social needs. By improving SDoH, we have the ability to directly impact the overall physical and mental health of our community. 

An early phase of Waco Connect is a collaboration with the Waco Police Department that is being sponsored by the City of Waco. Waco Connect will support community members who have underlying mental health needs that lead to frequent law enforcement contacts. Waco Connect staff will complete a needs assessment, assist the community member in identifying goals, link them to resources, and offer ongoing support for up to one year. A main objective of this program is to reduce law enforcement contacts, emergency department visits, and mental health crises that require hospitalization. 

When we help meet the needs of those who are struggling, we all benefit. Mental health crises have implications that start with an individual and ripple out to affect all levels of our communities. As Waco Connect works to link our community members to resources and assist them in accessing services that promote mental health, we will be addressing individual needs that will hopefully lead to improvements in physical health, mental health, and overall quality of life. By avoiding more costly interventions such as law enforcement involvement, emergency department visits, and inpatient hospitalizations, we will have increased access to already limited resources. 

Waco Connect is looking to launch this phase of the program in June of this year.

Telawna Kirbie is director of behavioral health initiatives with Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Fire chief gets out & about in Waco

In honor of Black History Month, we are featuring interviews with local Black community leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media. The students asked questions about what the leaders love about Waco, and we are excited to share their responses with you this month.

By Tim Longoria

Due to the recent worldwide pandemic and businesses shutting down because of it, it has become more difficult to enjoy all that Waco has to offer. Luckily, Waco’s new Fire Chief Gregory Summers said there are still plenty of activities that Waco residents can take part in when they have free time.

Fire Chief Gregory Summers

Coming from Little Rock, Ark., Summers started at Station No. 5 in early April, and he said each month he gets more and more accustomed to Waco. Summers likes to spend a lot of time outside with his wife, Jeanette.

“If we go to a restaurant, my wife and I, we are looking to go to a patio,” Summers said.

Restaurants like Magnolia Table, George’s, and Jake’s Texas Tea House, all of which are some of Summers’ favorite places to eat in Waco, have outdoor seating with 4 1/2 star ratings out of five, according to tripadvisor.com.

As it has been colder, Summers said he will start ordering more food to his house if he and Jeanette happen to get caught in the cold. And if going out to eat doesn’t seem like a popular idea to the Summers family on any particular day, outdoor activities seem to be a fine alternative.

“I can tell you, Cameron Park is an awesome park,” said Summers. “We just love riding down … looking at the statues.”

Cameron Park is a 416-acre park that includes the Waco Sculpture Zoo along the side of the Brazos River. There are 28 different styles of sculptures designed by people all over the United States, displayed across the river for a mile featuring animals that are common in the Waco area or found in the Cameron Park Zoo.

Summers and his wife have lived in Waco for almost a full year and, like everyone else, haven’t been able to experience the city in its entirety for some time. Once more businesses start opening, Summers said that he and Jeanette would feel more comfortable spending more time in public.

While it didn’t take long for Summers to adjust to a Texan lifestyle, he gave credit to his firefighters for “adapting very well to the COVID-19 disease.” In 35 years in fire service, Summers has been in a leadership position for almost the entire time. Before he became a fire chief in 2009, Summers had previous experience as an assistant fire chief and an interim fire chief.

Summers said he can’t wait to be “heavily involved in the community once this pandemic is in the rear-view mirror,” like he was in Little Rock during the majority of his fire service. 

Staying close to his wife and firefighters at the station for the time being, Summers hopes to be able to return to normal life and the regular feeling of being a leader in Waco.

Tim Longoria is a freshman journalism major at Baylor University hoping to get a job as a sports broadcaster.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

A message from Mayor Kyle Deaver regarding the death of George Floyd

By Mayor Kyle Deaver

The brutal killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day at the hands of Minneapolis police was tragic, despicable, and completely unacceptable to our society. Unfortunately, it is part of a long history of the lack of equity in our nation. Waco has its own sad history of racism, including the lynching of Jesse Washington on May 15, 1916.

We have begun to face this reality in our community, and we must continue to move toward a more racially equitable society. The peaceful protestors and demonstrators who spoke and marched together this past Saturday in Waco were right in their calls for action. We must continue to work toward this future together.

Across the country, peaceful protestors and demonstrators have voiced this same desire. Unfortunately, in many cities, protests have involved looting and vandalism. That’s a terrible situation for many reasons. It is obviously unfair to those whose businesses and property are affected. It puts fellow protesters and police in danger, and it warps the message of the need to end racism in our nation. This jeopardizes that very message that so desperately needs to be heard, and it causes many of the people who need to hear and engage on this important message to, instead, become fearful and angry.

I want to thank the organizers and all who participated in last Saturday’s protests and demonstrations for their thoughtful, genuine approach to the problem of racial inequity and violence by some police officers. It is certainly not all, but it’s also not just “a few bad apples.” I also want to thank the leaders in our communities of color for their wise approach to these difficult times. And I want to thank them for relationships they have built with our police force.

I respect and admire every member of Waco’s Police Department that I have had the opportunity to get to know. I believe that each of them are every bit as sickened by what transpired in Minneapolis as I am. Police brutality anywhere in our nation strains the relationship between our citizens and the police who are doing their important and often dangerous work as they try to protect all of us.

Let’s continue to work together toward healing and racial equity. That will require difficult conversations about next steps. Those conversations have to occur.

Kyle Deaver was elected mayor in 2016 and was unopposed in 2018. He previously served four years on the Waco City Council as the representative for District V. Kyle is an attorney and businessman who is active in the Waco community. Deaver is currently on the board of the Waco Foundation. He has served on the boards of the Cameron Park Zoological Society, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, Vanguard College Preparatory School, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Day School. He served six years on the Waco Plan Commission.

Someone in Lorena Knows How to Raise a Child!

By Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton, Spokesman for Waco Police Department.  This originally appeared on the Waco Police Department Facebook page, and Sgt. Swanton has also graciously shared it with Act Locally Waco. 

Thought I’d share a story that happened last night while doing a part-time gig at the China Spring vs. Lorena Football game.

A little girl from Lorena, bout 7-8 years old walks up and tells me “Thanks officer for your service and keeping us safe!” I have a feeling that this is not the first time she has done that to someone in uniform…Military, EMS, Fire, etc.. as it came too naturally for her to do.

It was obvious to me that her Mom and Dad have made it a point to teach this little one what a lot of the world is missing today…Kindness, respect and an ability to thank others for what many take for granted.

So many times as officers we have parents grab a misbehaving small child and march them over to where we may be and scream at the child “I’ll have this officer put you in jail if you don’t stop (insert whatever behavior and it’s most often absolutely nothing)!! REALLY!!??? What on earth does the parent think this does to what the kiddo thinks about Police? How about making them terrified of us??? That’s exactly what it does. What happens when this child gets lost somewhere? Would you not want the child to feel safe walking up to an officer to ask for help in getting home?

I may never know who you are, but a hearty thanks to the parents of that little Lorena Leopard who is going to grow up to be a beautiful person! Mom and Dad…you are doing a great job!

This week’s Blog was written by Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton, Spokesman for Waco Police Department. (Facebook: WacoPoliceDepartment; Twitter: WacoPolice)

If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco blog, please email [email protected]

Open Letter to Our New Student Neighbors

By Sgt. Patrick Swanton, Spokesman for the Waco Police Department

Let me be one of the first to welcome y’all to our city…Waco. There will be others that do that as well, such as the Waving Man, the Prophet, even the Statue of Liberty and the Wise Guy on Valley Mills Drive. The Waving Man won’t talk much,  but take the time to stop and talk to the Prophet (he’ll be on the walk-over on IH-35 at some point). Not only will you find him quite the conversationalist, but you’ll get a blessing if you request one!! (Who doesn’t need that now-a-days?)

waco bridge picWHAT TO DO: Those of you that are the fresh fish out-of towners here are in for a wonderful experience in our city. I wholeheartedly encourage you to get out a bit and experience Waco as a whole. Take a break from all the school stuff and see for yourself what we have to offer such as the Cameron Park Zoo, Dr. Pepper Museum, Waco Mammoth Site, and of course…the Suspension Bridge. Oh…and YES…it is okay to throw tortillas to feed the ducks!

Grab a kayak and hit the Brazos, wet a line in Lake Waco (pretty awesome when the White Bass are running), do the dam run (dam…as in big thing that holds water back) or explore Cameron Park’s 416 acres and hunt for the legendary Goat-Man. Word has it the Spirit of the Cameron Park Witch still haunts the area as well. Visit the Farmers Market on the weekend…Mom will feel better knowing at least you are looking at the vegetables.

Wanna try something really different??? I double-dog dare you to do a ride along with us (Waco’s Finest). It’s a real eye-opener to the world and who knows…we may spark an interest in your new desire to become the Po-Po…NO!!! The yearning to eat doughnuts is not obligatory…it’s an acquired trait.

I’M HUNGRY: Now for food…if you go hungry here it is your own fault, as we have a fantastic variety of restaurants in all flavors and values. You will grasp pretty quickly we Wacoans really enjoy our Mexican food. It will take tries at several places to discover which one of those fit your palette.

Word of caution…the Margaritas are tempting but not worth the trouble if you are under 21 or driving!! We welcome you to get to know your local police officers but strongly encourage you not to experience our jails, and guess what…it really doesn’t matter to us who your parents are; if we catch you drinking and driving, that experience is really gonna suck!

EXPERIMENT!! For goodness sake…munch on some ribs from Momma and Pappa B’s, eat (TRY anyway) a 4×4 at Dubl-R’s, enjoy the best catfish around at Jim’s Chicken in Bellmead, and most definitely eat as many cupcakes and cakeballs from the Olive Branch as humanly possible.

SAFETY FIRST: Remember…your safety is paramount to us at Waco P.D. and as much as we like bustin bad guys, we don’t need “volunteer victims.” Statistically speaking you’re much safer in groups than you are alone. Your purse is not safe in your car, even if you were only going to be inside for a few minutes. The I-pad, I-phone, G.P.S. or any other electronic device Mom and Dad gave you so they can track ya (sorry Moms and Dads but like they didn’t already know!!) make great items for some crackhead to sell for a few rocks. They (dopers) really don’t care that you’re having a melt-down because you can’t “Instagram,” Update Status or “Tweet” about the cop fingerprinting your broken into car. That’s life and it does occasionally happen. Do what you can to make it inconvenient for them. Hopefully they will move…to like, Idaho. (Sorry Idaho)

Yes, we do have crime in Waco…we aren’t bad as some others, but we aren’t Mayberry either. The important thing here is to realize that you can make a difference in your own safety. Be aware of your surroundings, pay close attention to that “sixth sense”, try not to walk or jog alone (*remember*…you have heard this twice now!), lock up and hide your valuables and drive safe; this means no texting or distracted driving.

THINGS TO REMEMBER: You still have a Mom and Dad or others that care about you…CALL THEM!! You will run out of money at some point and it’ll be really nice to have made a few new friends to help you enjoy the “gourmet ketchup packet soup” you’re dining on. Hopefully new friends will have the Ramen Noodles to share. Gas really is expensive, cable is not a necessity, and college life can be a blast, and No…not everyone is doing it (insert whatever you need to here).

We really are here to help and were young once too (some of us a lot longer ago than others). We can share with you some great memories or some that you would rather forget that can dramatically alter your planned path…that choice is yours.

Waco P.D’s goal is to keep you safe in your new surroundings. Help us do that by using common sense, being a responsible neighbor in your new city, and working with Waco to make us the kind of city in which you want to stay. Step up here, do something to help those less fortunate and importantly…be kind.

We welcome you to Waco and hope that you will consider this your home. The future is just beginning for many of you and you really are our future. Grasp that!!

Oh and now the shameless plug…Follow us on Facebook at Waco Police Department and Twitter @WacoPolice for happenings in and around our city and at Waco P.D. We keep ya updated on breaking crime alerts, funny happenings and general stuff we need to tell ya bout.

Stay safe, new neighbors, and take us up on the dare,

By Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton, Waco Police Department spokesman, August 21, 2013 (See this letter as a PDF)

Blah, Blah, Blah…Waco Police Starting to do More of That!!

By Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton, Spokesman for Waco Police Department

What!!?? The police want people to LIKE and FOLLOW us??? Absolutely!

Recently the Waco Police Department has opened up several new lines of communication with our citizens. We have jumped feet first into the hi-tech world of Social Media and so far have been greeted with an abundance of likes and followers. Social media geeksters are even sharing and re-tweeting our stuff!!

In our computer savvy, fast paced world we felt a need to be able to provide an instant information source for our citizens to keep them abreast of our day to day activities in and around our area. What better way than to use the already invented wheel of Social Media such as Twitter and Facebook?

Our detective division was the first to guinea pig (easy on the side comments!!) a Facebook page and we realized almost immediately how popular this would be. Detectives posted videos and photos of suspects committing crimes and were immediately able to receive tips leading to the arrest of those individuals. It is really quite amazing how much our community wants to help in making our neighborhoods safer.

The main Waco Police Department page at www.facebook.com/wacopolicedepartment is also entwined with our Twitter account @wacopolice so we can serve two totally different sets of our community. This page is designed to give our followers an up to date line of communication for news worthy events, and emergency communications such as weather, breaking criminal activities, traffic hazards and events that could immediately impact their lives. We also give you snapshots of common day to day on goings inside your police department.

swanton pic

Sgt. Swanton speaking at recent Social Media Day event.

The detective page www.facebook.com/WPDNSS  is designed to allow our followers to see individuals that commit crimes and to help make identification so we can obtain warrants of arrest. The administrator for this page also injects appropriate humor and fun! Fans and followers of our Social Media accounts can expect to be not only enlightened but at times appropriately entertained as well.

The sites may not be for the faint of heart.  At times we will provide a peek into a world that, quite honestly, some folks would prefer to not know about. Examples of this can be radio traffic quotes from officers or a bit more detail on crimes committed in our community that some may find disgusting. We do, however, keep it on the level of making our citizens aware of the real life that unfortunately does rear its ugly head in our fair city. We always try to have a learning point as well. For example: Stay away from crack as it tends to make you forget things…like your name!! Or, in the case of a wife-beater’s mug shot whose family does not like the fact that it is public information and posted for all to see, we kind of look at it like this… do the crime your mug makes primetime!!

On the light side, our pages really can be a bit amusing from time to time. Some of the things we see in our cop world will not only make you laugh but will simply amaze you with what some folks are capable of, good and bad.

We invite all to be our friends, followers, fans, and, yes, even groupies as you, our citizens, are truly what we are about. Making you, your family, your neighbors and neighborhoods safer is a responsibility we will all need to take on to be successful. We can do this, Waco! A big part of making our city safe is opening lines of communication never before tried. We welcome feedback and responses and look forward to chatting with you on the World Wide Web!!

This week’s Blog was written by Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton, Spokesman for Waco Police Department. (Facebook: WacoPoliceDepartment; Twitter: WacoPolice)

If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco blog, please email [email protected]

Time to Respond

By Ashley Bean Thornton

I stand in awe of the first responders.  Here’s one story I heard:  Having seen the fire and fearing the worst, a young mother, 15-month old baby in her arms, ran into her house to grab shoes and a diaper bag before leaving.  They weren’t quite quick enough though. The plant exploded while they were still inside.   The young father watched in horror from the front yard as the glass from their sunny front window, once such a beautiful part of their home, became a deadly force flying in shards toward his family.  Miraculously, Mom and daughter were safe.  They had stepped around a corner into an interior hall just as the blast occurred.  They scrambled out of their wrecked home and into their damaged-but-drivable Jeep and headed out to put a safe distance between themselves and the burning fertilizer plant. But Dad, a volunteer fireman, did not go with them.  As his wife pulled out of town, he waved good-bye to his own family, so recently and mercifully spared, and ran toward the blast zone to help others.  There are no words…

I stand in awe of the second, third and fourth responders.  The folks who know how to bind up wounds and board up houses; the organizers who can find a place for the piles of water bottles, and clothes, and diapers; the comforters who can hold a hand and bring a moment’s peace; the competent ones who know how to make and serve coffee for the multitudes – all of these people are heroes to me.  I’m terrible at all of that kind of thing, paralyzed by the chaos, I’m more in-the-way than helpful.

All day Thursday and Friday I monitored the media. Through the window of my computer screen, I watched the tide of help roll in while I sat in my office.    Eventually I began to see notes like this: “We are hearing from pretty much every official that we speak to that monetary donations are needed at this time.”  A way for me to respond!  I may not know exactly what to do in a crisis, but I dang sure know how to write a check!  We all have some part to play, and this is my part for now.