SALEM, N.H. — About 30 people waved flags and signs in support for the Salem Police Department, soliciting honks in support for the officers at 9 Veterans Memorial Parkway Monday afternoon.
"With all of the static and 'defund' stuff being said we wanted to have a community show of support," said state Rep. Fred Doucette, R-Salem, holding a sign that said #Defend.
Doucette and fellow state Rep. Daryl Abbas, R-Salem, planned the event for everyone in town in the wake of nationwide protests calling for police reform and racial justice.
One of the demands from protesters across the country has been to "defund the police," calling for money from police budgets to be diverted to other social services, potentially to solve some criminal issues.
"We need to think more than just defund, dismantle, disorganize (the police) because they shouldn't just transfer millions of dollars out of the budgets," Doucette said. He sees an opportunity to re-examine the ways that the government funds social services.
Abbas sits on the New Hampshire House's committee for Criminal Justice and Public Safety. He sees room for improvement when it comes to training police on racial sensitivity, he said.
"As a person of color, I know what it's like to be (racially) profiled," said Abbas, who is of Middle Eastern descent. "But there's good police in this town."
"We have to look at it (racial bias in policing), and even if we are doing well, there's room for improvement," Abbas said.
The rally of support drew people from all ages and from all across the political spectrums to show their support.
Eleven-year old Ryan Szymansky came with his mother to show support for the police.
"I know a lot of people care and a lot of people support the police," Ryan said.
Bonnie Wright, who is running as a Democrat for state representative, attended Monday's event at the police station after taking part by car in the Black Lives Matter protest in Haverhill on Saturday. She held a sign signifying that she could be both pro-Black Lives Matter and with the local police department.
"I grew up with respect for the police," Wright said. "I think we need to show them (police) the public cares, and if we don't, we'll end up like Minneapolis."
Fellow Democrat Claire Karibian agreed. She hopes the community will support the Salem police getting a new department, she added.
Deputy Chief Joel Dolan said the department was thankful for the show of support.
"It's time for a dialogue in this country," Dolan said. "Both sides can come together to find a way as one."
Salem police officers have yearly anti-bias in policing training to help combat racial bias, Dolan explained.
"We at the police department are always looking at ways to make ourselves better," Dolan said. "It's our mission to protect and serve the community."
One issue the department is facing is how to best respond to mental health crisis, he said.
"There have been a lot of cuts at the state level that have forced mental health back into the communities and the police departments," Dolan said. "Our plan in the future is to have officers specifically trained in crisis management and deescalation."