Tammika Hill thinks it’s wrong that the city has more police cameras in Southeast Raleigh than in North Raleigh.
Someone, whether it’s government or community leaders, should teach young black men how to effectively interact with police officers, said Justin Jenkins.
Officer J.A. Priest feels the tension as much as anyone, and he wishes it was different.
“I want to communicate with the people I serve,” Priest said. “But I feel like they don’t want me there.”
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More than 100 people, including Hill, Jenkins and Priest, gathered Monday evening at Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh to talk about relationships between residents and the city – specifically the police department.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane announced the meetings, called “Community Conversations,” earlier this month as an effort to restore the public’s trust in the wake of two officer-involved shootings earlier this year.
A white Raleigh police officer fatally shot Akiel Denkins, a 24-year-old black man, on Feb. 29 in Southeast Raleigh after attempting to arrest him for failing to appear in court on a felony drug charge. On Aug. 29, an officer fatally shot Jaqwan Julius Terry, 24, in East Raleigh after sustaining a gunshot wound during a confrontation.
“This has been a difficult year for Raleigh,” McFarlane said Monday. She added that last week’s election “revealed an even larger divide” than city leaders understood.
President-elect Donald Trump made remarks on the campaign trail that some Americans find offensive to minorities. His victory prompted protests in some cities, including Raleigh and Durham.
On Monday, meeting facilitator Willie Ratchford of Charlotte aimed to put the crowd at ease. The key is showing each other respect, he said.
“Blacks and whites can easily have a conversation on race if we have a relationship,” Ratchford said.
Attendees sat around tables in groups of eight. Each table had a moderator appointed by the city, such as a police officer, staff member or council member.
Priest, a Hispanic-American, launched discussions about race relations at his table by talking about his own experience growing up in a border town in Texas. Police officers there would sometimes ask for residents’ “papers” without probable cause.
Priest says he wants to make a difference and build relationships in Raleigh but feels resistance.
Jordan Ryland, who is black, said he feels it, too. Ryland said he wants to strike up conversations with the officers who patrol his neighborhood but is afraid to knock on their windows for fear his curiosity will generate suspicion.
“There’s a little bit of tension there,” Ryland said.
A second Community Conversation is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Anne Gordon Center for Active Adults at 1901 Spring Forest Road.