2016 has been a year of astound enlightenment for many Americans. With the emergence of video camera technology and social media’s contagion, we have witnessed the irresponsible tragedies of many Black and Brown bodies at the expense of our community allies, policemen. The use of these mediums has had a swirly effect on many, forcing the injustice that has been a staple of modern history right in the face of Americans and people across the world. With the political season in full swing, police and civilian relations has been a prominent discussion point amongst candidates. PBS Newshour reported in an recent article that 25 percent of police killings were African-Americans, while 16 percent were Latinos, combing the fatalities for nearly half of the killings committed by law enforcement this year. Now, one would argue that Whites are killed more as 49 percent of police killings were Whites, but they do account for 62 percent of the American population. On the other hand, Blacks account for 13% and Latinos 17.6 percent. Certainly a disproportionate number when you look at the demographics. As difficult as this topic may be for many— White people in particular— to discuss, you cannot ignore the fact that young, unarmed black and brown women and men are being gunned down or killed at the hand of law enforcement at an alarming rate.
On Thursday, October 13th The Delta Beta Executive Alumni Foundation organization gathered in Harlem, New York to move the conversation forward and come up with concrete solutions to push community and police relations forward in a positive manner. The DBEAF hosted a panel discussion called, “The State of Police & Community Relations: Let’s Come up with Solutions”. The panel was free and open to the public and sought to move the narrative from anger in the community for law enforcement towards specific ideas to move better relations between police and communities of color. There were about fifty community members in attendance for the event and a dynamic group of individuals on the panel to shed light on the issues of the evening. Panelists included Charlene Wyands, retired deputy inspector for the NYPD; Nigel L. Farinha, Chief of Gang Prosecution in New York City; Royce Russell, Defense and Civil Rights Attorney in New York City; and Guy Mitchell, a NY County Criminal Court Judge. The panel was moderated by Lamond Williams of WBLS.
Williams opened the panel by offering the panelists an opportunity to talk about the current state of police and community relations from each of their unique perspectives. All the panelists agreed that there were issues that plagued communities of color, but also acknowledged the tough roles of law enforcement. “It’s not as easy as most people think, “ Wyands said. “No cops wants to use their weapon, and in fact, most don’t discharge their gun their entire career.” The conversation moved to how each of the panelists wants the community to understand the plight of both sides and think about how we can work better together if we understand one another. “Put yourself in the place of a cop going into some of these communities,” Farinha said. “They are doing the best job they can do. We need to call out those not doing their job in the right manner.”
Accountability of officers was a reoccurring motif from the crowd. Baby Boomer attendees reminisced of how policemen were more community based and were individuals who resided in their neighborhoods. This then shifted the conversation to who should patrol what neighborhoods and what kind of qualifications an officer should posses. The later part of the discussion hinged upon what police are doing now to improve relations.
The night ended with a Q&A from a number of those in the audience. Williams summed up the group’s collection of how we can come together as a community to move forward. The biggest takeaway of the night was—as cliche as it may sound—get involved on all fronts. “Many people don’t even know who their council member is or state commissioner. These are elected officials who make the decisions!”, said Mitchell. He then continued to plead with the audience to get out, vote, and research not only Presidential candidates, but state and local candidates as well. Another solution presented was amplifying small and minority owned businesses to come together to provide opportunities and events for the community to become more engaged. In general, the ideas that formed were collectively tied to building foundation and solidarity with law enforcement.
By the panel’s conclusion it was evident that this conversation just began to address the wide-ranging issues of the community. It was an amazing program put together to talk about real issues and the DBEAF ensures this was just the beginning.