Black officers confer how to improve interactions between cops, communities of color

John McDevitt
October 22, 2019 - 5:04 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — How do you keep order and maintain community relations between police officials and neighborhoods of color? Black law enforcement officers reviewed the crucial issue during an annual forum in Philadelphia.

The National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers (NABLEO) started its three-day Fall Education and Training Conference Tuesday, which is held in Southwest Philly this year. The training session, titled “From Warriors to Guardians: Changing The Culture of Policing,” works on effective communication and active listening skills in order to improve relationships between community members and their law enforcement officers.

“How and what are we training our officers? Are we training them to be warriors or are we training them to be guardians?” asked Charles Wilson, NABLEO chairman. “Are we training them in various methods for de-escalation, communication and negotiation skills? Because it's most often what you say and how you say it to people that dictates their reaction to you.”

Wilson said the alarming rate at which unarmed African-Americans are being killed by police — like 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson, who was shot in her Fort Worth bedroom at 2 a.m. by a white officer, after a neighbor alerted authorities her front door was open — calls for major reforms.

The recent shooting of Atatiana Jefferson ... is only the latest in what seems to be an epidemic of police shootings of unarmed African-American men and women,” he added. “They have led to the outcry of unbridled rage and deep concern among community members, and rightfully so.

“The commonly used phrase ‘senseless tragedy’ is pathetically inadequate to describe a police killing of someone whose only transgression was being at  home caring for a young child.”

Related: Texas police officer charged with murder of Atatiana Jefferson

Wilson noted that people of color are 2.8 times more likely to be shot by the police than white people, and more likely to be unarmed. He cited research that also found white officers are more likely to shoot on the job than either black or Hispanic officers.

Wilson said law enforcement officials need to address certain oversights — like, who departments hire, how they train officers, and who supervises these officers — in order to regain the respect, trust and legitimacy of our communities.

And if citizens are ever stopped by an officer, Wilson advised the No. 1 thing you can do is cooperate with him or her.

“If the officer asks you for your ID and registration, give it to him,” he continued. “If you get stopped at night, turn on the interior light make sure the officer can see your hands at all times.”

Members of NABLEO are encouraged to bring information and recommendations from the conference back to their home cities and develop these ideas into policies and regulations.