For many people, when they think of police, they think of officers writing tickets or arresting bad guys. But in suburban Washington, a group of multi-talented police officers is reaching out to their community through music.
Students at Thurgood Marshall Middle School were in for a big surprise - a band made up of uniformed, Prince George's County police officers.
"I have never known that police are interested in playing in a band," said one of the students.
"It was a real surprise,"stated a 4th-grader.
The local police department created the band Rhythm and Blues nine years ago.
Corporal Edwin Robertson started the group and plays trombone, guitar and tuba.
"What we are trying to do is let citizens see that the police department is normal with normal people," said Corporal Robertson. "Let them know that our job is not just lock them up, send them away in jail. Our job is to try to talk to them, try to prevent them from getting into trouble."
Rhythm and Blues is comprised of eight officers and a civilian drummer. They play at schools and community events two to three times a week.
Robertson is a helicopter pilot and former homicide detective who has been a policeman for 26 years.
"The rehearsal is done on our days off," he said. "We don't mind coming in on our days off to rehearse. We all understand that it is important we do that. So the band will sound good. It doesn't impede my normal duties at all."
The Prince George's County Police Department is very supportive of the band.
"I just want to thank the Rhythm and Blues," said Chief Robert Hylton. "They are my special ambassadors. Let's please give them a great hand."
Robert Hylton is the Prince George's County chief of police.
"They are actually policing," he said. "Policing, believe it or not, is to create peaceful environment. We want to work to form partnerships, enjoy fun and let the community know that we can work together without having very adversarial relationship."
Chief Hylton says a senior citizen can enjoy the band's music as much as a teenager can. Pear Gardy lives at a local senior citizens apartment building.
"Truthfully I didn't have very good feelings about the officers," said Pear Gardy. "But now I have changed. All of us had a very good time listening to the music. They all were good. And we hope they come back visit us again."
Officers in the band say their primary goal is to encourage young people to resist getting into trouble, and to find something constructive to do. It has worked with seventh grader Tyrone Parker.
"It [the police band] inspired me to get started playing an instrument," said Tyrone Parker.
As for the band members, they say Rhythm and Blues gives them the opportunity to do what they love to do and to help to improve community relations.