Forum gives community, cops chance to share insight

Published 3:00 am Friday, July 15, 2016

About two dozen citizens gathered under the pavilion at Murphree Park on Thursday for a community forum discussion between residents and law enforcement.

Three officers from the Troy Police Department took part in the forum, including Chief Randall Barr, and four from the Pike County Sheriff’s Office also sat on the panel, including Captain Willie Cope. Mayor Jason Reeves and Troy Councilwoman Dejerilyn King Henderson were also present to talk to citizens.

The forum was held in response to last week’s events involving the killing of two black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the killing of five officers in Dallas at a peaceful protest. The forum was the idea of Shabrell Reynolds, founder of Flowing Brook Inc., and Dana Wilson, founder of Humbled Hearts Inc.

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Cope was the first law enforcement officer to speak at the forum, focusing on the importance of community involvement for his department.

“Sheriff (Russell) Thomas tells us every day to get out in the community,” Cope said. “That’s the first thing we have to do when we join the force is get out in the community and meet people face-to-face.”

Cope said that the biggest key to solving issues is by showing mutual respect for each other. “We have to get hate out of our heart,” he said. “Hate can’t change anything.”

Barr came up next and spoke about some of the tools that Troy’s police force has integrated to help officers do their jobs and be held accountable.

“We got body cams back in 2013 before most people had even begun talking about them,” he said. “In 2009 we had cameras installed in our police cars. But no matter how many tools we have for our officers, the best tools are still our ears. We have to listen so we can be a part of the solution and not the problem.”

After the initial messages from all of the representatives, the forum opened up for citizens to ask questions. Most of the questions asked were about how both sides should conduct themselves during traffic stops.

One example that was discussed was a hypothetical situation where a driver had was armed and had concealed carry permit, similar to the instance of Philando Castile, a black man who was killed by a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Castile had told the officer that he was armed and was reaching for his wallet when the officer fatally shot him.

The advice given by officers was for anyone in that situation to get out their license and registration, roll down their window and turn on their dome light if at night and to keep their hands visible. This, they said, helps officers to feel safe and that the driver is not trying to hurt them. If the driver is armed, the best course of action would be to tell the officer and wait for instruction to make sure both parties feel safe.