WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- On Tuesday, the Winston-Salem Police Department met with local ministers in what they called “Clergy Trust Talks” aimed at improving relations between police officers and members of the community.
Wanda Allen-Abraha, director of the City of Winston-Salem Human Relations Department, says those attending the meeting were able to exchange ideas with each other and “dispel a lot of the misconceptions based on stereotypes and misunderstandings here in our community.”
The goal of many who attended today’s event is to build trust among community leaders in the hope of preventing the type of violence that erupted in Ferguson, Mo.
Bishop Todd Fulton, of the Mt. Moriah Outreach Center in Kernersville, says today’s meeting was important because, “I think it’s a great opportunity for us to build bridges and not walls between clergy and the police department.”
Hispanic liaison Rev. Francis Rivers Meza says he would like to see more communication between some of the Spanish-speaking officers and the city’s Latino residents. “I think that there hasn’t been much helpful communication between the police department and the Hispanic/Latino community here in Winston-Salem. So I think that it’s important for us to begin to talk with one another and so I wanted to come and see if that invitation was for real and I came away convinced that it is.”
The police department even opened up their simulation room to those who wanted to get a first-hand look at some of the dangerous scenarios that police officers face every day, so they could better understand why officers sometimes have to use deadly force.
Many who left the event say they feel positive about the future relationship between the police department and citizens.
Bishop Fulton says, “I think it’s the fabric of our society if we can’t trust the police department in the African-American community then you’re not going to be able to build strong communities.”