The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday January 24th

Law officials speak to racial injustices in community panel

His comment came during a community forum in Durham called Focus on Law and Order: Building Bridges, Mending Communities, hosted by UNC-TV.

The forum was created to spark conversation concerning recently highlighted clashes between the police and the African-American community, and will be aired on Wednesday, Sept. 9, at 8 p.m.

The panel of state and local government officials gave citizens an opportunity to voice their concerns with a Q&A session.

Christopher Blue, police chief of Chapel Hill, said, in North Carolina, measures are being taken to train police officers on impartiality and racial bias, including enacting a first-time policy that states bias would not be tolerated within the department.

Wayne Scott, Greensboro Chief of Police, echoed Blue’s sentiments.

“As a state, we should be proud that we’re moving forward,” Scott said.

Hanes said the N.C. General Assembly recently passed a bill into this session’s budget requiring officers to wear body cameras, which would protect the relationship between the community and law enforcement.

“(The relationship) is one that cannot be denied,” he said. “It’s one that has to happen — it’s one we all need.”

Scott said while body cameras wouldn’t be worn at all times, it is not the decision of the officer regarding whether the camera is turned on or off.

But Nia Wilson, director of the SpiritHouse in Durham, an organization that works with low-income families and communities, was not convinced the trainings and body cameras were enough to better the relationship between police officers and their communities.

“We begin to develop our biases as children, and so 24 hours of training, 36 hours of training, 72 hours of training is nothing compared to the years of developing mindsets,” Wilson said. “Using body cameras as a deterrent for bad behavior is a bad move.”

Travis Mitchell, president and director of Communities in Schools in Wake County, said one of his biggest realizations stems from his conversations with young people. Mitchell said he has asked if young people see police officers as protective or as trying to contain them instead of servicing them.

Steven Combs, director of the Criminal Justice Training and Standards Division in Raleigh, said oftentimes, the danger of the job gives many officers a “warrior mentality.”

“I’m here to say not to lose the warrior mentality — there’s a place for the warrior mentality,” Combs said. “But also this guardian mentality where you can look down at a young man while he’s in school and talk to him on his level, and try to form that relationship, not always being the tough police officer with the sunglasses and the black gloves.”

Audience member Sean Ellison shared with the panel how he had grown up disliking law enforcement due to lacking a male role model and the unwarranted attention he was given by officers.

“They would talk to me in a way that ‘oh, I have power,’” Ellison said. “And I’m trying to figure out why, when they see a young black male like me who has no father and no home, they feel like ‘oh, I have to step in that power role’ and talk to me in a way that’s not receptive.”



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