Police launch program to reward acts of kindness

The Farmington Police Department launched its Partnerships for a Positive Community pilot program over the holidays to recognize residents who perform random acts of kindness

Renee Lucero
Special to The Daily Times
Debbie Magruder, manager and director at the Well Recovery Club, looks out a window on Thursday in Farmington. Magruder said she looks across the street for people who need things like a warm cup of coffee or gloves as they wait to for a place to stay at The Roof.

FARMINGTON — The boys in blue are now armed with more than guns and handcuffs.

The Farmington Police Department recently launched the Partnerships for a Positive Community program, which allows officers to report random acts of kindness to their supervisors and reward residents with a small gift from local businesses.

When Farmington police Chief Steve Hebbe encouraged officers to pitch ideas for community outreach programs, Robert Decker, district coordinator for the department, proposed the idea of rewarding kindness after researching what other police departments around the country were doing.

Decker was inspired by a "positive ticket" idea. And after gaining support from local businesses, Partnerships for a Positive Community was born.

"It’s about being nice to people who are being nice," Decker said. "It’s not an incentive to be nice. We know there still are good people out there and lots of people go out of their way — whether it’s calling in a DWI or calling in a shoplifting tip — to help us. So we as police officers wanted to be able to go up and say thanks."

The program does more than just provide a simple thank you. It gives those caught committing acts of kindness a small gift certificate donated from local business that include Big R, Chick-fil-A and Allen Theatres.

"(Police officers) have a unique job. We see a lot of bad things, and we see a lot of good things," Decker said. "Beyond giving a thank you, we wanted to be able to give a small gift, and we had great turnout as far as businesses that wanted to donate to the program."

After the police department posted a fewpositive incidentson its Facebook page, the program gained momentum, and donations from private residents began to come in as well.

Tom and Ginger Weinheimer gave the program $400 in memory of 22-year-old Jarrett McKnight, an aspiring law enforcement officer who passed away in November. The Weinheimers made the donation because Partnerships for a Positive Community aligned with McKnight’s personal philosophy of helping those in need, according to the police department’s blog.

Since then, the program has handed out small gifts to many residents for acts of kindness ranging from assisting residents with special needs to vigilantly reporting drunken driving incidents, according to the department’s Facebook page.

Debbie Magruder, manager and director at the Well Recovery Club, sips coffee on Thursday.

One of the program’s first awards went to Debbie Magruder. Magruder, who works at the Well Recovery Club in downtown Farmington, was handing out gloves to homeless residents on a cold day in December.

"Someone had given me a bunch of gloves because they knew where I worked, and they knew I could help people with them," Magruder said. "I was working and I was watching outside, and there were some elderly people out there, so I took the gloves over to keep them warm. That’s somebody’s dad or brother or mother."

Magruder said she was surprised to later see Officer Decker, who presented her with a gift card to Farmers Market for her kindness.

"I don’t know how he saw me, but all he said was, 'We have eyes everywhere,'" Magruder said with a laugh. "It surprised me. I don’t like to be recognized for hardly anything because these are just things we should do. We should take care of each other."

Debbie Magruder, manager and director at the Well Recovery Club, talks on Thursday with Lyle Whitney as he waits for The Roof, a homeless shelter, to open. Magruder handed Whitney a pair of gloves as he waited.

The program was piloted through the holiday season with the possibility of extending the program if it generated enough support, according to Georgette Allen, a spokeswoman for the police department.

"The past few months of the program have been kind of a trial, and we got a really great response," Allen said. "Hopefully, we can build enough momentum to keep it going."

Community members and businesses who would like to contribute a gift card can contact Decker at 505-787-8168.

Renee Lucero is a freelance writer for The Daily Times.