Police Chiefs from Across U.S. Attend Phoenix Summit Hoping To Help Bridge Relationships with Community
Story and photos by Floyd Alvin Galloway
Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Michelle Cusseaux, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland; the number of citizens killed at the hands of police officers around the country is too long to list here. A high percentage are unarmed African Americans.
Some have referred to the rash of deaths as an epidemic. Others believe the numbers are not different, it’s just with the advent of social media the incidents have become more visible.
Whatever the reason, the results are the same; too many people are being killed by police, particularly Black people. According to the Guardian.com, in the first 24 days of 2015, police in the US fatally shot more people than police did in England and Wales, combined, over the past 24 years.
The Black Chamber of Arizona, the Checkered Flag Foundation and the University of Phoenix’s College of Security and Criminal Justice, sponsored the Bridge Summit, September 10, Palomar Hotel in downtown Phoenix to look at police-community relationships and address this critical issue of policing in the 21st century.
The summit featured a panel discussion with police chiefs from across the country. Participating were Chief Joseph Yahner – Phoenix, Chief Calvin Williams – Cleveland Ohio, Chief Robert White – Denver Colorado, Deputy Chief Carolyn “cJ” Davis – Atlanta Georgia, Deputy Chief Danielle Outlaw – Oakland California, Assistant Chief Perry Tarrent- Seattle Washington and Director Lonnie Lawrence – Miami, Florida
Moderated by Maj. Gen. (Ret.) James “Spider” Marks, dean of the College of Security and Criminal Justice, and a national security contributor to CNN, the panel discussed police procedures, police community relations, in light of the numerous incidents across the nation.
“This is a call to action,” said Gen. Marks. “This is not only a discussion, this is an effort to get at the intellectual, because we have a call to action, stated Gen. Marks. He noted the importance of the gathering and encouraged the attendees to look to their creative side to address the issues.
“I believe we are in a bit of a crisis right now, and if we don’t do something, if we don’t get started with a dialogue; not pointing the finger at each other, but actually having a dialogue on what we can do to provide solutions… then that crisis will continue,” said Kerwin Brown, Black Chamber of Arizona president.
The audience was filled with government leaders, leaders of community organizations, business leaders and law enforcement professionals participated in an interactive sessions looking to develop a results-oriented dialog during the summit noted organizers.
“Policing has changed but the police have not changed,” said Chief White his introductory statement. He noted what he tries to impart with his officers, is to teach them to de-escalate a situation.
“I am of the philosophy of that, just because it’s legal doesn’t make it necessary,” said Chief White. He stated that there are times an officer doesn’t have to give a ticket. An officer can build positive relationships rather than igniting negative situations. He noted in working with five different police department across the country during his career, some in his profession think he’s a troublemaker and some don’t.
Answering a question from the audience regarding diversity in some police agencies, White stated that it is not only important to have a diversity of color in a police force but also a diversity of thought.
Director Lawrence noted that some officers have never had contact in an urban center until they get on the force and you have to make sure those officers have the correct training in their interaction with a community they are not culturally aware of.
Respect and trust are two of the ingredients missing in police and community relationships. The Black community feels they can’t trust the law officers, because they aren’t shown respect from them and police feel the same way in regards to some communities.
This deep schism produces a negative relationship between the two. The historical landscape of negative police actions in Black communities is a significant hurdle for departments to overcome.
Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant, who was shot in the back and killed by the transit police while he was on laying on his stomach at a BART station in Oakland on New Years Day, stated accountability and transparency are crucial issues in police departments. If those items are non-existent then there is no way to build trust and respect between the two entities.