by Nancy Chen/ABC7 Wednesday
WASHINGTON (ABC7) — In police work, the beat is everything – where and when you patrol.
But for the eight Metropolitan Police Department officers who make up the Side by Side Band, the focus is on a different kind of beat – a musical one.
Carrying revolvers as well as a tune, the officers perform all around the District at community events as part of the “Officer Friendly” program – with the goal of visiting every elementary school in DC and showcasing a different side of law enforcement.
“Sometimes, children only associate officers with just patrolling the streets,” officer Brittany Shakir said during a recent performance at Horace Mann Elementary School in Northwest DC. “But seeing us playing music and dancing with them, they’re able to see us in a more positive light, in a different light.”
That light also shining a new perspective on what it means to be a police officer – for those young and old.
“They’re like, that little girl is an officer? And I’m like, yes, I’m an officer,” Shakir said. “So it always surprises people seeing people of different statures and looking different.”
Those who have been in DC for a while might remember previous generations of the band. Performing all around the city back in the 1970s, the popular group was made up of DC first responders. One member of the band even remembers listening to the band himself when he was eight years old, helping shape his career path.
“I remember the Side by Side Band, being born and raised in Washington DC,” officer Raymond Mincey said. “When I was kid, they used to come to my elementary school.”
Since the band was re-started last year, they’ve visited about 60 schools and have been a hit wherever they go.
“They have become an integral part of our community in relating to the community,” Patrol Chief Lamar Greene said. “Music is a universal language, it is well received by all ages.”
And that’s in part because the band covers it all: Hip hop, R&B, jazz, country, rock – even the ear-catching “Baby Shark” – requiring hours of practice, often on their own time. The members said it’s well worth it.
“As a police officer and as a father and a resident of the District of Columbia, it makes me know that there are police officers that are out here that are much more than just police officers,” Mincey said. “That they really, really care about the community, and they care about children.”