The West Sacramento Police Department has become the first capital-area law enforcement agency to participate in a viral video challenge sweeping the country.
The department’s video response to the Running Man Challenge features dance performances by McGruff the Crime Dog, a guy in a bomb disposal suit, Sacramento Kings dancers and police officers by the dozen.
“We put it out there to show a little more of the humanity,” said Sgt. Roger Kinney, a spokesman for the department. Kinney said the strained relationship between some communities and law enforcement agencies was part of the impetus for doing the video, particularly in light of recent in-custody deaths. He said it is important for the community to know that officers are not robots.
The video was released Friday and had more than 70,000 views on Facebook in the first 20 hours.
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The running man dance craze – like the dab, nae nae and Harlem Shake – has been spread by celebrities and athletes recording their own interpretations. Kinney said some of the country’s largest police agencies have gotten into the act.
Much like the ice bucket challenge, in which participants dumped ice water on their heads to raise awareness of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, the video ends with a challenge to other agencies.
Police Chief Tom McDonald ends West Sacramento’s video by challenging the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and the Sacramento Police Department to participate.
The West Sacramento video was shot at several locations, including Raley Field, Bryte Park and near the Tower Bridge. Kinney said a technician who works for the Yolo County District Attorney’s office shot and edited the video. He said he doesn’t know how much it cost to produce but said it was well worth it.
“This is money well spent,” Kinney said. He said law enforcement agencies generally don’t spend enough connecting with the community.
West Sacramento Mayor Christoper Cabaldon said that the Running Man Challenge “is not the single answer” to problems with policing across the country but that locally it builds on the community policing efforts already underway in West Sacramento.
The dance does “encourage people to see past the uniform and the badge and see the real people behind them,” he said. The department’s community policing efforts include getting more officers out of squad cars, allowing them to more directly interact with the community. The department is also hosting a weekly Summer Night Lights block parties aimed at building trust every Saturday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Riverbank Elementary School through Aug. 13.
He added that his officers should work on their dance moves.
It’s unclear whether Sacramento’s agencies will soon display their dancing prowess. Traci Trapani of the Sacramento Police Department and Tony Turnbull of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department said their agencies have not decided whether to participate.
Turnbull said the dance challenge was “one small example of a particular outreach to the community.” He said his department engages in outreach “each and every day.”
Kinney, who makes several appearances in the video, acknowledged his dancing skills could use polishing.
“They could be much improved,” Kinney said. “It was all in the spirit. If we can’t make fun of ourselves as cops, we’re in the wrong profession.”