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Community Safety Task Force holds first listening session, hears local input on policing

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Flowers surround the Carrboro Town Hall sign on Monday, March 27, 2023.

The Carrboro Community Safety Task Force held its first listening session on July 17 at the Marian Cheek Jackson Center to receive community input on policing and community safety.

The Community Safety Task Force was proposed in 2020 as a part of a resolution approved by the Carrboro Town Council aimed at taking steps to advance racial equity in law enforcement and public safety.

Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils said the proposal of the task force came shortly after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis, Minn., police in 2020.

“Our community, like many other communities, was initiating a conversation about race and policing,” he said. “At that time the Carrboro Town Council made a number of policy decisions related to policing and announced its intent to begin working on some deeper issues related to policing and racial disparities.” 

The task force was officially created and given a full charge outlining its purpose on April 20, 2021.

After its creation, the Carrboro Town Council appointed community members with a wide variety of backgrounds to sit on the task force alongside Mayor Damon Seils and Carrboro Town Council members Barbara Foushee and Sammy Slade.

“We wanted people who brought different perspectives and knowledge and expertise to the issue of community safety, that includes people coming from an academic perspective, people coming from a community organizing perspective and people bringing their own experience with law enforcement to the table,” Seils said.

The task force is currently working towards fulfilling its charge of creating and submitting concrete, actionable recommendations to the Town Council that will promote racial equity in Carrboro law enforcement and the local criminal justice system.

Ben Blaisdell, an East Carolina University faculty member who sits on the task force, said that conversations with local community leaders and organizations are guiding the task force in pursuing their goals.

“Part of the charge is to talk to the community and in particular — the grassroots community organizations that are connected to the parts of the community that are most affected by policing,” he said.

George Barrett, the executive director of the Marian Cheek Jackson Center who also sits on the task force, said that the group is taking a unique approach to learning from the community.

“We from the beginning said we didn’t want to just be a group of us talking in a room and then coming up with recommendations,” he said. “We want to do as much as we can to talk directly with members of the community, especially those in the margins, about what does community safety look like even beyond policing.”

As the task force will continue to hold sessions open to the public, Blaisdell said community members are encouraged to come and engage as active listeners. 

“These community members are experts on this because this is what's happening to them and they have the knowledge to share with us that we can learn from and be the Carrboro we claim we want to be,” he said.

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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