LAUREN HAMILL | Scroll Photography

The Rexburg Police Department hosted a picnic at Porter Park on Wednesday, June 3 to meet and interact with community members who have special needs.

Shane Turman, chief of police for the City of Rexburg, said the purpose of the event  is for adults and youth with special needs to get to know the police officers.

“A lot of people are scared of police officers, so we’re trying to break down those barriers,” Turman said.

Colin Erickson, a lieutenant in the Rexburg Police Department, said another purpose for this event is to connect with the community members with special needs.

“We’re their friends,” Erickson said. “We’re there to help if an emergency ever does arise.”

Erickson said one way the officers connect with people is to show them some of the equipment they use. The police department brought a patrol car, its Segway, DUI tricycles and its drug detection dog to the event. The emergency service departments also brought an ambulance and a fire truck.

“This is a great outreach program,” said Christopher Mann, a member of the Rexburg City Council.

Turman said he was inspired to start up the yearly picnic a few years ago after he had the opportunity to speak at Upper Valley Industries, an organization that provides services for people with special needs. Turman said he had never spoken to a group of people with special needs before, so he didn’t know what to expect. He said he found the group warm and welcoming.

“It would be an awesome thing if we could get all of my officers to have that experience with them,” Turman said he thought at the time.

Erickson said the best thing about the picnic is to see the smile it brings to each person’s face.

Jeanine Carlson, a life skills instructor at Development Workshop Inc., a community rehabilitation program, said she loves working with people who have special needs.

“I don’t think there’s a better job in the world,” Carlson said.

Jessica Bagley, a client at Development Workshop Inc., said it is fun to go out in the community and participate in activities.

Turman said the annual picnic began five years ago.

“We hope it continues on for as long as possible,” Turman said.