DALLAS – A group of Dallas police officers reached a milestone this week. The Black Police Association of Greater Dallas celebrated its 40th anniversary.

This weekend, its members are holding a big gala.

The association calls a brick building in the 700 block of Centre Street in Oak Cliff its home. The group's members say the Black Police Association has been a beacon in the community for four decades.

Jesika Jones works as a patrol officer in South Dallas and Pleasant Grove. The former Lincoln High School athlete traded in her track shoes for a police badge.

Jones said the BPA's 40th anniversary a big accomplishment. "It's very exciting. It's a very pivotal point in our organization's history," she said.

This association started with 12 people in 1975. The founders were warned against forming a group that would challenge race and gender policies in the Dallas Police Department.

Over time, the Black Police Association became stronger. It now has more than 600 members focused on bridging gaps between the black community and police.

Officers say their mission still has its challenges.

"I work at nights," Jones said. "On calls when I see kids, sometimes I see kids run away from us. It's disheartening and very hurtful to see that, because we are here to help the community."

Some members say the association is bridging the gaps through education.

"It gives the officers a chance to unite," explained Senior Cpl. Corey Anderson. "We talk about things, and develop strategies to help the community."

Anderson works with Dallas youth every day, and tries changing perceptions of police.

"We want to show them that we are out there to help them, to assist them, and to make sure they understand that we are on their side," Anderson said.

The Black Police Association is holding its 40th Anniversary Gala at 7 p.m. Saturday, November 7 at the Hyatt Regency Dallas – Reunion. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson will serve as keynote speaker for the event.

WFAA anchor Shelly Slater talked with members of the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas on News 8 at 4 o'clock