Forum promotes unity

Published 3:00 am Friday, August 12, 2016

Law enforcement and members of the community gathered Thursday at a community forum to discuss engaging and understanding people with different backgrounds.

The forum is the second in a series of forums organized by Dana Wilson, founder of Humbled Hearts Inc., and Shabrell Reynolds, founder of Flowing Brook Inc., in response to national incidents that stirred tensions between communities and law enforcement.

The Rev. Michael Allsup asked the black law enforcement officers in attendance to tell their stories of discrimination both on-duty and off.

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“My congregation is very diverse, many of them being college students,” Allsup said. “These students have told me ways that they’ve been discriminated against. I wanted to ask what the black police officers have faced in their lives.”

Lt. Greg Wright responded to Allsup’s question. “I was fresh out of the military when I came to the Troy PD,” Wright said. “There, they kind of get that out of you because it’s all about the guy you’re standing beside. Then there were callers to dispatchers that would be specific about not sending a black police officer. You just have to overcome that and just know that it’s ignorance.”

Capt. Willie Cope with the Pike County Sheriff’s office also talked about discrimination that he’s faced in the past.

“I have done traffic stops where the driver would say ‘Why you pulled me over, boy?’” Cope said. “And, of course, you just tell them why, but your heart kind of flutters a bit. And one of the clubs that used to be in the county one time said ‘If you send a black deputy he won’t come out alive.’ But I was in the area so I went down there because you can’t let that keep you from doing your job.”

Allsup said he thinks it is important to talk about the issue so that it can’t be swept under the rug.

“I think we’re all naturally more comfortable around people that are like us, but we have to purpose not to be a racist,” Allsup said. “I feel we must talk about it.”

Officials and residents also discussed the importance of understanding the different backgrounds that different people come from.

“As a police officer, you have to learn a lot about how you deal with the community,” said Lt. Matt Raiti of the Troy Police Department. “I used to play baseball and so I’d spit all the time, it’s just what we did. But I had to learn not to do that in black communities because that could be seen as a sign of disrespect.”

“There is no color to our souls,” said Mayor Jason Reeves. “At the last forum I quoted Ephesians 4:32 which says, ‘Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.’ That’s what we have to do.”

“We’ve got to know each other, know our differences and our cultures,” said Rev. Jason Thomas. “We’ve all got a part to play. We can’t hold onto stuff, that only makes you angry and bitter, and ineffective with people.”