Some residents of a historically black neighborhood south of downtown Raleigh remain skeptical about the police following the February death of Akiel Denkins, who was fatally shot while struggling with an arresting officer. But a community policing effort seems to be easing tensions and creating good will.
Raleigh officers don’t just drive the neighborhood streets alone in their cars anymore. They walk the neighborhood trying to engage residents; they talk to people; they seek to understand how the neighborhood works.
One example: A casual visit to a woman’s house produced feedback that her backyard fence is falling down and people are cutting through her yard. The police took note, and the city’s housing inspectors may act soon to help her.
Residents want their neighborhood to be safe, and toward that end the greater police presence is welcomed by some. Unfortunately, though, there remains skepticism in the largely minority neighborhood because the Raleigh Police Department is overwhelmingly white. It’s not really fair for residents to presume the police are not as diligent about protecting them because of their race, but the attitude may be understandable. A racial divide and distrust still exist in Raleigh, decades after school integration and the abolition of legalized segregation in public and private spaces.
But that’s the very kind of problem that community policing could address, if residents and their own community leaders are willing to meet in a cooperative spirit.