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Singing cops use karaoke to fight crime in West Philadelphia

Two police officers in Philadelphia are using karaoke to break down barriers in their community. CNN's Alexandra Field reports.

Posted: Nov 22, 2019 4:10 PM
Updated: Nov 22, 2019 4:10 PM

On a recent Friday afternoon in West Philadelphia, two police officers arrive at the corner of 52nd and Market Streets. A loud commotion ensues, attracting the attention of passers-by. A crowd gathers, some taking photos and video with their phones.

This interaction might not be what you think -- there's music, laughter, dancing and a lot of singing.

This weekly get-together -- dubbed "Karaoke with a Cop" -- is the brainchild of Officer Shamssadeen Nur Ali Baukman and Officer Justin Harris, who both grew up in West Philly.

As patrol officers in the city's 18th precinct, the pair realized that one of the biggest hurdles to effectively policing their own neighborhood was the negative perception of police.

"Nationwide, we have a real stigma against us," Harris said. "We always see police officers using too much force or abusing power, but we rarely see images of police officers in a positive light."

To help change that, Harris and Baukman invited the community to sing and dance with them on Friday afternoons to build a connection and show a different side of the police.

A local DJ volunteers to blast out hits from Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, and more recent artists like Trey Songz.

The idea came to Baukman a few years ago when he was on a call to disperse crowds blocking an intersection at a block party.

"I had to get on the microphone and ask them to move," said Baukman. He surprised the crowd when he started singing with his flawless voice. "Everyone's like, 'Oh my god, it's so great! It's so great!'"

Awhile later at a community relations event, Baukman suggested hosting karaoke with the neighborhood. "And the rest is pretty much history," he said.

Growing up in West Philly, Baukman dreamed of becoming a neighborhood hero who could stop the violence he saw around him.

Harris grew up in the same part of the city and joined the police department hoping to inspire young people.

"The children in communities without a lot of positive role models need to see that someone who looks like them can make it in a world where it may seem like you can't," Harris said.

In addition to inspiring the next generation, Baukman and Harris hope that "Karaoke with a Cop" is a small step toward building a positive relationship with the community to help stem the violence that has plagued West Philadelphia.

"If they feel like they have a friend, they can walk up to us and tell us what's going on," Baukman said.

Harris said that approach is already helping to fight crime.

"People feel more comfortable approaching us, giving us information, 'cause they feel we're going to do the right thing for them," he said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10563104
Hinds10414204
Harrison7397113
Jackson6655128
Rankin6057107
Lee540396
Madison5120107
Forrest394786
Jones376188
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Washington3321108
Lamar301950
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Marshall225051
Leflore211191
Monroe209778
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Clay96127
Clarke94853
Jasper87023
Stone82015
Calhoun79513
Walthall79330
Montgomery78426
Carroll75515
Lawrence74614
Smith74216
Yalobusha74228
Noxubee73317
Perry68726
Tunica63019
Greene62422
Jefferson Davis59617
Claiborne59216
Amite57615
Humphreys55219
Quitman5107
Benton50418
Kemper48018
Webster47714
Wilkinson40722
Jefferson38312
Choctaw3637
Franklin3635
Sharkey32917
Issaquena1214
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 256828

Reported Deaths: 3711
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34214511
Mobile20299366
Madison13925150
Tuscaloosa13591156
Montgomery12659238
Shelby1095877
Baldwin9163137
Lee792566
Morgan710851
Etowah677467
Calhoun6695121
Marshall665757
Houston548239
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Elmore427564
Walker3818111
Talladega374457
Jackson350723
Colbert336443
Blount310043
Autauga287342
Franklin259734
Coffee254115
Dale242054
Dallas232932
Chilton230841
Russell22813
Covington227934
Escambia206131
Tallapoosa189191
Chambers185950
Pike162214
Clarke161819
Marion146136
Winston141924
Lawrence135336
Pickens127720
Geneva12638
Marengo125224
Bibb123938
Barbour120629
Butler118842
Randolph105922
Cherokee105524
Hale99732
Fayette96316
Clay93525
Washington93319
Henry8946
Monroe83811
Lowndes82129
Cleburne79914
Macon76522
Crenshaw72930
Conecuh72414
Lamar7138
Bullock70919
Perry6927
Wilcox64918
Sumter58922
Greene44218
Choctaw43519
Coosa3724
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