- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Police in Alaska’s capital city saw an outpouring of community support following the fatal shootings of officers in Texas and Louisiana and on Wednesday encouraged the public to join them in taking a stand against violence.

The Juneau Police Department hosted a cookout in a downtown park, handing out free grilled hot dogs and offering a place for people to make a connection with officers and to celebrate diversity within the community.

Lt. Kris Sell said the idea for the event was borne out of frustration - a sense of “what do you do?” - in light of the deadly shootings. “This is really a chance to come out and let us know what’s on your mind,” Sell said.

The event followed the recent shootings of black men by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana and the killing of officers in Texas and Louisiana.

People who stopped by were encouraged to wear name tags listing things about them and what makes them different. There also was a board where people could write their thoughts about recent violence in the U.S. and abroad.

Officer Ken Colon, who was manning the grill Wednesday morning, had written on his name tag that he was a “sun child,” a description almost begging that people inquire about it. (He explained that he’s from the Virgin Islands.) Lt. Dave Campbell disclosed on his tag that he was raised in poverty.

Tim Lindoff, who sat at a picnic table with a hot dog and Coke, said he has a lot of respect for the department. The 65-year-old said the event was a good idea.

“I think that kids’ll get a better outlook, seeing that they’re not only here to arrest the people but to serve the people,” he said.

Police Chief Bryce Johnson said the department has great support from much of the community but acknowledged that some are distrustful of the department. In a statement posted on the department’s Facebook page, Johnson laid out steps that he said he’ll insist that officers follow, including ensuring that officers aren’t being biased in their policing and continuing to seek communication and good relationships with communities of color and other traditionally disadvantaged groups.

He also suggested steps the community could take, including joining the force. He said it’s been more than a decade since the department has hired an Alaska Native as an officer. One thing he’d encourage parents: “Don’t teach your children that the police are the problem.” Johnson said police are on the front lines trying to help solve many societal ills.

Aurah Landau came to the event with her son, Zev LeVine. She said she wants Juneau to be a place where they and their friends feel safe. No one should have to live in fear, she said.

“I also want Juneau to shine a little light in the world, where some of the rhetoric, the language, at the highest levels of leadership in our country is hate-filled, divisive and scary,” she said.

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Follow Becky Bohrer at https://twitter.com/beckybohrerap.

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