Kennesaw police connect with the community at Taco Time

A group of Kennesaw residents sits at a table listening to speaker

Photo: Somaiya Curwen

by Somaiya Curwen

The Kennesaw Police Department partnered with the Kennesaw Advisory Board and scheduled a Taco Time event recently at the Ben Robertson Community Center to connect with citizens and discuss their community.

The Kennesaw Advisory Board gave out homemade tacos to citizens and had a Q&A session discussing the procedures of how the Kennesaw Police Department keeps the town safe. There were multiple police officers there who gave honest answers about their experiences with the force and how they have taken action.

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“The police are the public, and the public are the police,” Chief of Police Bill Westenburg said.

Westenburg came to the Taco Time event and participated with some members of his staff. They were encouraged to put the event on and engage with the community from so many different walks of life.

It was impressive how many strong questions there were, and it gave them the opportunity to learn more about those who are serving in the community. The chief’s favorite part was the community building around the event.

“The honesty of it, and people can come together and be real, which is needed for what we are trying to do collectively in the community,” Westenburg said.

When asking Westenburg why the event was so important to him, he stated how important the engagement is and how imperative it is to recognize the different types of people in the community.

“We want to come across in a way of openness and transparency so that people feel welcome,” he said.

He mentioned that the Kennesaw Advisory Board threw out the idea of hosting this event and suggested that the police department come and join, and Westenburg did not hesitate to say yes.

Vasiliki Daniels, an attendee of this event, is the CEO of a nonprofit called Gathering a New Generation, and she wanted to be a voice in the community.

“There was a lot of informational stuff that we needed to get connected with each other to know about,” she said.

Madelyn Orochena is a member of the Kennesaw City Council. She was born and raised in Kennesaw and went to school here for elementary, middle, and high school, and went to Kennesaw State University.

“I was recently elected for city council, and I was excited to come to this event to stay engaged, hear the concerns within the community, and how the police department interacts with the community,” Orochena said.

David Buchannan is the Public Information Officer for the Police Department and does all the community engagement. What made him want to participate in this event, was that it was a way to engage with the community and is a part of his job title.

He said that they normally do events in the summer, like Juneteenth, and this is an event that can be done any time of the year. His favorite part about his job is that he gets to see and experience all the positive aspects of the community.

“A lot of police officers, you’re going with people when they are having the worst day of their lives,” he said.

“There is very little negative interaction that I have,” Buchannan said. He said this event was important to him because he was born and raised in Kennesaw. “I’ve seen it grow from what it was when I was little, and it’s a huge part of Metro Atlanta,” he said.

“I want to make sure that as a police officer, my friends and family are being treated fairly and that they are getting properly serviced,” Buchannan said.

“If they are having a bad day that there is someone proficient, trained, and ready to help provide justice to the best of our ability.”

“I’ve been in this job for over 30 years, and I rarely found anyone on it that doesn’t truly care for who they are serving,” Westenburg said.

Somaiya Curwen is a journalism student at Kennesaw State University

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