Training session to bridge divide between Winston-Salem police, community members

In Black and White

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — A lot has changed in the 21 years Lt. Amy Gaulden has been with Winston-Salem police.

“Just overall, society has changed and the way we police has changed,” she said.

She’s heard some things about how people perceive law enforcement, even from her own family, that shocked her.

“I think people have different perceptions based on what’s in the media, what’s being taught to them by their families, and sharing that knowledge and having conversations about it is the only way to get it out in the open and to deal with it, confront it, and do it together,” she said.

It’s much easier said than done. That’s why the department brought in some experts to help every officer go from saying to doing.

“The solution lies in relationship-building,” said M. Quentin Williams, with Dedication to Community. “If we can get people to understand how to get to that place of harmony, connectedness, togetherness, to reconciliation, then all the other stuff handles itself.”

Williams is an attorney, former FBI agent, and federal prosecutor. James Fisher-Davis is a retired chief with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, who also founded Equilibrium Up. They work together to train groups on diversity and equality awareness. They led a session is on 21st century policing.

“We have a void,” said Williams. “We have folks who have been pitted against each other, who are taking sides and we have to realize that we’re one community. The law enforcement officers and the community are one community. It’s not us versus them.”

“We like to say that what has occurred is we talk at one another today as opposed to speaking with and to one another,” Fisher-Davis said. “That is really difficult when you’re trying to establish relationships, and especially when you’re trying to come together, and you’re trying to bridge gaps.”

In his words, they’re trying to develop holistic officers.

“We’re dealing with mind, body, spirit. We’re dealing with communication and trying to get individuals to acquire those tools needed in order for them to build meaningful and sustainable relationships.”

Gaulden believes this kind of training is essential to move the relationship forward between officers and the people they protect and serve.

“Being able to sit back and have a cup of coffee with someone or a biscuit at the Bojangles and just sitting down and listening and understanding. Sometimes I think it’s more important than necessarily to speak, in my opinion.”

While this 21st century policing training session was happening, there was another group of about 40 members from the Winston-Salem community putting their heads together to figure out how to address some of the city’s biggest issues. We’re going inside their session in next week’s In Black and White.

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