Clergy and Police Department talk to improve relations

Clergy and Police Department talk to improve relations
June 29
04:10 2017

Tension between the police departments and the public at large seem to be at an all time high all around the country.  In an attempt to improve community relations, the Winston-Salem Police Department held its quarterly Trust Talks with the clergy of the city on Tuesday, June 20.  The meeting was held at the city of Winston-Salem Employee Development Center on Lowery Street.

With the seemingly unwarranted killings of African-Americans across the nation coupled with no repercussions for the officers involved some citizens have lost trust in the police as a whole.  Winston-Salem has not had one of these well publicized shootings and seeks to keep it that way with these discussions.

Wanda Allen-Abraha, director of Winston-Salem Human Relations Department, said this is the sixth year they have been holding the Trust Talks and they are held quarterly each year.  She said they decided to include the clergy in the discussions because they felt it was a better way to get their message out to the public.

“I feel as though the Clergy Trust Talks fosters a better relationship between the people and the community because it proactively encourages dialogue,” Allen-Abraha said.  “This helps both groups learn about each other as far as what needs improving, what is actually working or things that they may be concerned about.”

“We let them know in the beginning that this is a safe environment and no one is allowed to attack anyone else verbally,” she went on to say.  “It is a good place to learn and to just share information.  Members of the clergy are representatives of the community and often times they are a voice for their congregants who may not have a voice.”

Pam Peoples-Joyner, community relations specialist for the WSPD said, “The point of the trust talks is to develop a better bond between the clergy, community members and the Winston-Salem Police Department.  Upon the conclusion of the trust talks, we take that information back to our staff and we review that information during our training.”

During the trust talk those in attendance were able to speak about the stereotypes that exist between the citizens and the police department.  The use of force was explained from the process in which it was to be used along with the complaint process.  Lastly the group was broken down into four individual smaller groups to further discuss the issues at hand for both clergy and the police department.

“We are dressed here today with normal clothes and we do wear a uniform normally but we are people along with being police officers, “ said Sgt. Kevin Bowers of the WSPD Downtown Bike Patrol.  “These talks help break down many of the barriers that exist and it’s a safe place.  We should try to work better in cooperation with one another and not be divisive.”

The clergy in attendance wanted to express the concerns shared to them from members of their congregation and the community as a whole.  Local NAACP Chapter President Alvin Carlisle feels like meetings like the Trust Talks can go a long way to breaking down the barriers that separate the police and the community.

“When we can talk, be in the same space and build relationships then we are really making progress,” Carlisle said.  “We need to get to know one another not just in our particular roles but just as people, as humans.  When we have familiarity with the police officers we can then pass that along to our community and members.”

Bishop Todd Fulton, Social Justice chairman of the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity added, “I feel like its important for us to have meetings like this even though it may not be a fix all for our community.  It at least gives us the opportunity to have the police department listen to the side of the people.”

“I think it is a great tool for the police department to reach out to clergy to better their relationship with the community,” he added.  “At the end of the day when we can come together and work it will be better for everyone.”

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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