How to build greater understanding and cooperation between police and the populations they are responsible for protecting was the topic of a recent discussion among law enforcement experts and community leaders at a well-attended forum held at the Moakley Center.
Organized by the Criminal Justice Department, the Race and Policing forum focused in particular on the need to restore trust between police and communities of color in the wake of police shootings of unarmed African-American men over the last few years and the ensuing protests.
Dr. Mitch Librett, associate professor of Criminal Justice and a retired New Rochelle, N.Y., police lieutenant, said the central issue at the forum was whether it is time to rethink the aggressive tactics that many police departments initiated in the 1990’s in response to a surge in urban crime. He said those publicly supported tactics may have contributed to the drop in crime that followed, but new approaches may be called for given the events of the past few years.
“We wanted community leaders to explain to us what impact aggressive policing has on the populations they represent,” Dr. Librett said. “And we wanted highly regarded police executives to explain their understanding of the issue, how they see their departments being able to maintain or repair their relationships with the populations they serve.”
Representing law enforcement at the forum were Boston Police Superintendent-in-Chief William Gross, Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes, New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro, and Duxbury Police Chief Matthew Clancy.
The community panelists were New Bedford City Councilor Dana Rebeiro; Samuel Williams, senior program manager with the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative, a statewide youth violence reduction program; and Jean Belizaire, a counselor with the Brockton High Point Drug Treatment Center and an ordained clergy member.
“I think the panelists came to a consensus that there was a need for a strengthening of ties between police and local communities,” said Dr. Librett, adding that the event accomplished its purpose of “giving voice to stakeholders” in that relationship.