Can a cop be your friend?

Chelley Seibert took off the top of her police uniform during her TEDx Dayton talk last week to reveal a yellow shirt bearing the words “label jars not people.”

Archived photo: Dayton police officers with the east patrol division worked with fourth graders from Cleveland Elementary School to paint murals in April.

Her message was a simple one: police officers are people.

The retired police officer, whom I met at a party years ago, told the sold-out crowd that “police officers aren’t just like you; they are you.”

The former media relations officer and police academy instructor said recruits enter the force eager to help the community.

They soon come up against the legacy of mistrust.

Staff \ohoto of retired Dayton police officer Chelley Seibert at Tedx Dayton by Amelia Robinson

The crowd loved her talk… seriously loved it.

There were cheers of support.

At lunch time, Chelley and Dayton police officer Jermar Rayford led brave TEDx attendees in line dances, including the one that made him “Dayton famous” a few weeks ago.

The Dayton native and police recruiter won accolades after he did the Superman, whipped and nae-naed to Silentó’s Watch Me at the Taste of All Things Oregon.

I used this space to write about him.

Meet Dayton’s whipping, nae-nae-ing and stanky legging cop

Not one boo, and there were plenty of laughs, smiles and love for this man and woman of the brotherhood.

Building stronger ties between police officers and the community has been an even hotter topic in the face of public scrutiny of law enforcement due to a string of police shootings of unarmed blacks around the nation.

Chelley and Jermar are good people in or out of uniform.

It was clear that nearly everyone at the TEDx Talk agreed.

Stressing the importance of trust in the relationship between citizens and law enforcement, Chelley urged her TEDx audience to befriend a cop.

It is an uphill battle. Dayton police’s efforts to humanize its officers includes things like the “Coffee with a Cop” program.

The first downtown Dayton session will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Oct. 27 at Boston Stoker Coffee, 34 W. Second St.

It seems simple enough, but cops as “friend” and cops as “people” would be a difficult concept for many, particularly those who live in areas where there has been a history and/or a perceived history of police wrongdoing.

Simply put, if you see someone as the enemy, it is hard to see that person as a friend.

Dayton police officer Jermar Rayford dances at the Taste of All Things Oregon. (Source/ Mike Martin)

We all know it is possible to befriend a police officer and, for the most part, Chelley is right. Police officers aren’t just like us; they are us.

They are members of our families, friendship circles and neighborhoods. They go to our church, and they sat next to us back in seventh grade.

But some cops aren’t deserving of our friendship. Make no mistake. These bad apples should be rejected by the sisterhood and brotherhood of policing, as they are the rest of us.

Like the good ones, they are like us.

We can change who WE are.

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This piece first appeared on Amelia Robinson’s Seen and Overheard blog at

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