DECATUR – Open dialogue and good conversation took place between the community and members of the Decatur area law enforcement.
Caring Black Men, a group of local African-American men, hosted its second public forum in hopes to foster understanding between our community and our law enforcement. Mayor Mike McElroy opened the forum by referencing major tragedies involving minorities that have occurred all over the country.
“Do we have bad people in Decatur? Yes, but we cannot let bad people become a cancer in our society,” said McElroy.
McElroy indicated that tragedies like Ferguson and Baltimore are a big reason why there was a need to have a mutual understanding throughout the community. Caring Black Men’s forum was held from 6-8 PM on Monday night and sported the title “A Conversation on Community Perceptions.” President and founder of Caring Black Men Jeffry Perkins, Sr. thought the forum went as expected.
“I think pertinent questions were asked, and while some folks walk away not satisfied, the ongoing dialogue in the community will keep us moving in the right direction,” says Perkins.
A panel of six African-American’s, some of which were residents or community leaders, spoke on the behalf of the community on several issues ranging from education and curfew of young people to taxes and employment of adults.
Many of the comments from the panel were directed towards local law enforcement as they shared their perceptions of some issues that have come up in the Decatur community. Life-long resident of Decatur Ingrid Smith said bluntly.
“I’ll be honest; police officers are not liked in the ‘hood.”
Smith says officers need to be involved more in every aspect of the community. Smith adds that she wants to see more focus on how officers enforce the law, not just believe that they have to enforce it.
The forum also allowed for questions from the community. One of the questions that got the biggest reaction from the crowd was about the number of African-American police officers in Decatur. Law enforcement told the crowd that out of 160 officers only 6 were African-Americans.
Chief of Police Brad Sweeny responded to the reaction saying the community is also at fault the low number.
“I can’t hire more minorities if they don’t decide to come out and apply,” said Chief Sweeny.
Several members of the forum asked the community to educate our youth and make them understand that our community is worth living and working in. Jeffry Perkins concluded the forum with a thought to the public.
“It is up to us in the community to make it a better place, so let’s do something about it.”