COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Conversation and collaboration are the central themes at a Columbus community forum. The forum is set to tackle issues on community-police relations.
There are calls for change and reform in the wake of the police involved shooting deaths of 13 year old Ty’re King and Henry Green. Community members will voice their opinions and offer solutions to a panel that includes Columbus City Council, Columbus Police Department, judges, business people, university professors, and other elected officials.
Izola Hicks moved to Columbus to escape the violence in Chicago. She says her brother was shot there just days ago. The Eddy’s Chicken and Waffles cook says, “I want them (police) to look at us like people. We still are people. We still are human. A lot of people have families and kids.”
That is the gap the community and Columbus Police must bridge. Organizers hope these breakthroughs can be made at open community forums.
Community forum panelist James Ragland of Ragland Enterprises says, “If we don’t sit down and have good conversations with each other that allow for an atmosphere of mutual respect, we are never ever going to get this thing right so you’ve got to listen to each other.”
Coming together and collaborating could help ease fears. Hicks explains, “I do think everybody gets scared of the police. A lot of people don’t like police because of how powerful they are and stern police are.”
Event organizer Victor Peoples of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity says conversation can also help break stereotypes. He adds, “We have to get out of that stigma as a community, as a society, where every African American that walks next to you or drives next to you is not trying to rob you or take your car, carjack you or anything of the sort.”
Peoples wants to avoid disruptions and protests in favor of a more controlled and open dialogue. Ragland says these conversations are much more productive, “Listening is going to get us a couple of steps further. You see when there is not an atmosphere of cooperation, you have riots and other things happening that aren’t happening in the city of Columbus.”
This is only one forum in a series being held around Columbus as the search for tangible solutions to tense community-police relations looms.