Raleigh chief hopes “Face-to-Face” meetings will build community relationships

Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown.
Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown.

William Parker, a chemical analyst and married father of a 5-year-old son, asked three police officers sitting at a table with him: why are the police instructed to use deadly force, aiming at the subject’s body rather than just trying to wound them?

Raleigh police Capt. C.A. Carrigan fielded the question. He explained that the use of deadly force is justified only when someone is behaving in a manner that poses a danger to the officer or others. He noted that some police officers are skilled marksmen, but some are not.

“People sometimes ask, why not shot in the leg?’ Carrigan said. “But we are taught to shoot in the center mass where you’re most likely to hit even if the officer’s shot is off one way or another.”

Parker and Carrigan were among some 40 residents and equal number of officers – from patrol officers to commanders, including Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown – gathered in a first-floor conference room at the Hilton Garden hotel Monday evening to participate in “Face to Face,” a series of conversations between city residents and sworn officers with the Raleigh Police Department.

The series of two-way conversations, hosted by Deck-Brown, began last week in North Raleigh. Two more events will be held Dec. 15 in downtown Raleigh and Jan. 5 in West Raleigh.

“This is where it starts,” Deck-Brown said before welcoming the city residents and officers. “We are hoping these types of community engagements will help to enlighten the community, empower the community and build relationships with the community.”

Deck-Brown said she came up with the idea after she and members of her command staff who attend community meetings noticed they were asked the same questions.

“They were very good questions, but the people in the room were the only ones hearing the answer,” she said.

The police chief said the department wanted to create the opportunity where the greater community could be “part of a greater engagement.

“Let’s share information across the table with one another,” she said.

The night’s dialogue was facilitated by Andrew Sachs, a coordinator with the Dispute Settlement Center in Carrboro.

After the police and residents watched an 8-minute video on what should happen during a traffic stop, residents and officers broke into groups at 15 tables and began an hour-long conversation. At the end of the conversation, each table could submit a question for the chief to answer at the night’s end.

“This is not open mic night,” Sachs told the participants. “This is a more intimate setting where for one hour you can talk about anything you want, and if you like, try to come up with questions for the chief,” along with suggestions and ideas.

Deck-Brown hoped that “by-products” of the night’s conversation would include new programs, new ideas and possibly the modification of current department policies.

Sachs gave the room a verbal go signal and the conversations began in earnest.

Sgt. R.P. Bowen explained that during a traffic stop, officers address motorists in a type of script that includes telling the motorist exactly why he or she was stopped.

“You’re not going to hear, ‘do you know why I pulled you over?’ ” Bowen told the residents sitting at the table with him. “That’s playing games. We are going to let you know why we pulled you over.”

At night’s end, Parker said he was not impressed with the event. The officers answered the questions he posed based on department policy. But Parker thought the officers at his table evaded some of the questions he asked.

“I thought it was very political,” he said. “I ask the questions about officers shooting from the waist up because so many unarmed African-American males have been killed by the police. If a person does not have a firearm why does the officer have to shoot from the waist up?”

Thomasi McDonald: 919-829-4533, @tmcdona75589225

Face to Face

Downtown: Dec. 15, 6:30 p.m., Raleigh Convention Center, 500 S. Salisbury St.

West Raleigh: Jan. 5, 6:30 p.m., McKimmon Center, 701 Gorman St.