Police engage with community at West Philly barbershop

"We want to start conversations and build bridges."

Cherri Gregg
August 22, 2018 - 8:44 am
Philadelphia police officers met with community members at a barbershop in West Philly.

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A group of Philadelphia police officers held a candid community conversation in West Philadelphia this week at a unique space designed to build bridges.

Two dozen people packed into Philly Cuts Barbershop at 42nd and Chestnut for the second session of "Blades, Fades and Engage," an effort to keep a conversation going between police and the community.

"The environment is tense — so we need to be more intentional and proactive and not be reactive when there is something that takes place in the media," says Lamar Stewart, Southwest Division community relations officer and vice president of the National Black Police Association's Greater Philadelphia Chapter. 

Stewart led the discussion between plainclothes officers, barbershop patrons and others with questions ranging from the procedure for car stops to the perception that it's "the badge" versus everyone else.

"We want to start conversations and build bridges with demographics that feel disconnected from law enforcement for whatever reason," said Stewart. "Whether its communities of colors, young adults, the LGBTQ community, or whoever that is — we as law enforcement have to be the ones that build the bridge."

Stewart says the effort is close to his heart. As an African-American man who grew up in Germantown, he has a 15-year-old son and a daughter. He says the barbershop, a non-traditional place for police engagement, is the perfect place.

Philadelphia police officers met with community members at a barbershop in West Philly.
Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

"The barbershop is the country club," says Darrell Thomas, who owns Philly Cuts. He says barbershops are the perfect place to build relationships. "Here is where young boys become men. It's where dialogue happens."

Thomas says it's "the men's room" where officers and citizens are treated the same. He thought it would be a good place to spark a much-needed conversation.

"We have quite a few police that come through here," said Thomas. "When that relationship is established, everyone is seen as a person and treated with humility, so that's what we are trying to transfer here and maybe that would somewhat ease the mistakes of quick shooting or somehow rushing to judgement or rushing to physical action."

Blades, Fades and Engage will take place on the third Monday of every month.