I mentioned in a blog post last week that there was a major breakthrough in police/community relations in, of all places, Charleston WV. Here is a blog post by my co-worker Lida Shepherd about how all this came together.
And here's how it starts:
Editor’s note: As cities across the U.S. continue to grapple with issues of racist police violence, Charleston, West Virginia made headlines last week when its police chief and local community groups announced a plan to improve race relations in the city.
Lida Shepherd with the AFSC West Virginia Economic Justice Project was part of the 14-month collaborative planning process that led to this remarkable agreement.
Our first meeting with Chief Brent Webster of the Charleston Police Department in October of last year was slightly tense. We were sitting around the table to discuss the fact that the arrest rate of Blacks in our small city of just over 50,000 people was more than double that of whites.
At the table were a team of student and faith leaders, and representatives from NAACP-Charleston, Black Ministerial Alliance, AFSC, ACLU, Kanawha County Public Defender’s Office, East End Family Resource Center, and the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Before getting into the problem at hand, we each shared our personal thoughts on why it was important to address racism—a dialogue that emphasized this meeting was not about singling out the Charleston Police Department as a racist institution but rather addressing the broader problem of systemic racism that plays out not only in our city but across our nation.(It's a good story, and one that I hope will get better. Click the link above to read the rest.)