African American police chiefs talk about police-community relations

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The public has discussed and questioned the actions of police officers in incidents such as the Ohio officer who shot and killed a man during a traffic stop or the shooting and killing of Michael Brown in Missouri.

On Friday, two police chiefs came forward to talk about what they are doing right and how they've have made changes within their departments in response to certain events that have gained national coverage.

The two triad chiefs shared their thoughts during a North Carolina Black Elected Officials meeting in Winston-Salem. There were about 50 individuals who showed up, representing many different cities across the state. They came to hear suggestions on ways to improve the day-to-day interactions between police officers and the people they serve.

Winston-Salem Police Chief Barry Rountree said after the incident in Missouri with Michael Brown, he tripled the amount of body cameras for his department.

"We do have body cameras," Rountree said. "However, body cameras are not going to be the answer to everything."

Rountree pointed out that community involvement plays a huge role in positive police-community relations. When police, city leaders and people from the community have a comfortable, consistent dialogue, Rountree says it reflects positively in relationships between officers and the communities they serve.

Reidsville Police Chief, Robert Hassell, shared how his officers are involved. The department hosts several different events and activities that are committed to outreach.

"We are out in the community, we are being seen, we are listening," Hassell said. "And we are reacting to those comments we are hearing."

Hassell says after the Charleston, S.C. church shooting, many pastors voiced concerns about church security. Hassell says his departments have been making efforts to address that: suggesting the hiring of security at churches and encouraging pastors to attend workshops put on by the department's chaplains which focus on ways to avoid becoming a target.

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