The Garner Police Department is hoping to build strong relationships with several constituencies around town before it finds itself having to defend its actions before a crowd of angry residents and protesters.
Of course, everyone hopes the local police never find themselves facing such a hostile crowd, but, as we’ve seen in recent months, it’s hard to know when something is going to happen. A person with a gun defies police orders to drop the weapon, or a police officer makes a bad judgment call and takes some action that defies logic and – rightly or wrongly – casts the department in a poor light.
Garner police leaders know that if the time ever comes when they are faced with a situation like that, they are well served to have a commnity of people who understand how the police department operates and how it will handle itself in such a situation.
That’s what makes last week’s community meeting – and plans for a similar dialogue with the town’s business community – a smart move.
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Police should be speaking openly about bias and how they tried to avoid it. Police should explain how they train officers to react in dangerous situations and how that training is expected to pay off when an incident does occur. Police should be listening in a sincere way to the concerns voiced by those constituencies.
Police Chief Brandon Zuidema has been vocal about his desire to work with all segments of the community. He has shown a willingness to part ways with officers that don’t meet the town’s professional standards.
Openness on the part of police should be a goal for any police department. It’s even more important in today’s environment. Community conversations are a good first step in that effort.