Local non-profit aims to 'bridge' divide between officers and community

The work to reconcile the healing between communities and police continues throughout the country. 

According to a recent analysis by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland, there's been more than 300 police reform bills since 2020. While changes may have happened on paper, building trust on the streets is something that's going to take time. A local non-profit hopes to bridge the gap one act of kindness at a time.

"The diversity of the community we serve is so immense. So, we got this call, we met and we said, we want to do this," said Rafael Padilla, police chief for the city of Kent.

What Chief Padilla wanted to do, was be a part of this non-profit and its mission. It's called Blue Bridge Alliance.

The premise of it is simple. Officers are given debit cards from the non-profit, that they can use to help others in the community. They can do things like provide gas to those stranded, a meal to those who are hungry, or provide shelter to families looking for a fresh start, for example.

"That officer is able to, in the field, be able to make that determination, hey…what if there’s a hungry person right here, what if I just grab them some food and take it to them," said Brian Spracklin, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Blue Bridge Alliance.

For Padilla, this is helpful because officers see these events happen on a daily basis already.

"This gives us an opportunity to say, we want to encourage that more. Here’s some private funding, so when there’s an opportunity to do random acts of kindness, do it," said Padilla.

The non-profit was started and inspired by the tragic incident involving a San Diego Police Officers, Jeremy Henwood. Back in 2011, just moments before he was shot and killed, he was seen on surveillance video, helping a young boy by buying him a meal at a local McDonald's. It was the officers' kindness to the young boy that made national headlines at the time.

"It got me thinking how that simple act of kindness had a huge effect on that individual and that child," said Spracklin.

According to Spracklin, programs like this are needed now, more than ever.

"We’re currently working with six different departments , we’ve got two others that would like to onboard within our pilot," he said.

Those departments that have partnered with Blue Bridge Alliance so far include, Kent, Kirkland, Moses Lake, Pullman, Suquamish Tribal Police and Wenatchee Valley. Most recently, Puyallup, Marysville and Issaquah Police Departments also joined.

Stories have already poured in showing the positive impact it's had. One case involved a Spokane man who ran out of gas, on his way to say goodbyes to a loved one.

"I don’t have money to afford gas to Spokane to say goodbye. And the officer was able to get his Blue Bridge card out and fill the guys tank up with gas," said Spracklin.

Department's hope this program will continue healing within the community.

"The way I look at this program, is that it kind of formalize the things that law enforcement officers have been doing for years," said Padilla.

Blue Bridge Alliance is a non-profit, so the funding and debit cards provided to the officers, come strictly from community donations.

If you're interested on donating, please go to www.bluebridgealliance.org.