COMMUNITY COLLABORATION: Forum slated to bring law enforcement, community together

Published 11:04 pm Friday, January 30, 2015

VAIL STEWART RUMLEY | DAILY NEWS LAW ENFORCEMENT: Pictured, in December, deputies with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office are sworn in at the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. Newly elected Sheriff Ernie Coleman was also sworn in.

LAW ENFORCEMENT: Pictured, in December, deputies with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office are sworn in at the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. Newly elected Sheriff Ernie Coleman was also sworn in.

AURORA — A group of churches and other community members will host a forum next week to talk about the roles and responsibilities of law enforcement and how the community can better support them.

St. Peter’s Baptist Church in Aurora will host the forum Feb. 8, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The church decided to have the event to bring communities together in the aftermath of incidents with Michael Brown, Eric Garner and other African-American males’ encounters with law enforcement, said Edythe Williams, member of the church.

The event, dubbed, “Our Town, Our People: Promoting Collaboration, Compassion and Community,” will feature members of the Aurora community, mainly representatives of community churches, a moderator and representatives from local law enforcement agencies, including the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Aurora Police Department and North Carolina State Highway Patrol, have been invited to attend, according to Williams. Among the churches involved are New Growth Unlimited Ministries of Aurora, Dublin Grove of Aurora and United Methodist Church of Aurora, to name a few.

Pastor Barry Squires, pastor of St. Peter’s, said he hopes for the event to be a good opportunity for the community to reflect on things going on in other communities and prevent some of those negative things from happening in the Aurora community. Those heading the forum also want to ensure good communication between the community and local law enforcement, Squires said.

“It’s definitely no secret there’s been a lot of tension and violence in our communities across the nation, and a lot of people are looking for answers,” Squires said. “There’s a lot of distrust and anxiety between communities and law enforcement, and we felt like it was a great time for us to take a look at our community and talk about what is going on in America.

“What is actually happening in our own community is not necessarily happening in other communities in America, and we don’t want to allow the media to project upon us all the anxiety on us that’s present in other communities — we begin to own that and take on those feelings when it may not be true for our own personal community. We want to really just build a mutual respect between citizens and our local law enforcement.”

Squires said the forum will focus on the community asking law enforcement representatives questions about their roles as law enforcement to better understand what they do in the community and how the community can communicate and engage with them. The forum will also focus on the best way to make sure actions of community members are not misunderstood. At the forum, community members will hear the point of view from law enforcement, and the hope is that relationships will be built so when an issue arises int eh community, law enforcement can contact community leaders for assistance in addressing issues, he said.

“At some point out in the community, we will engage with or encounter law enforcement, and we want to know the best way to engage with them,” Squires said. “We’re hoping they can connect with leaders in the community so violence does not have to happen in our community. It will be a good time for the community to talk about who we are and how they can lean and depend onus when there is trouble in the community, especially among our young people,” Squires said. “There will be a moderator in this forum where we will talk back and forth and give the community an opportunity to ask questions on how to help them fulfill their duties and what we can do to help them in their roles.”

Squires, an assistant principal in the Wake County School system and who lives in Wake County, began pastoring the church in 2010 after his father, who was its former pastor, passed away. Though Squires does not live in the Aurora community, he has a love for it and its people, and despite a few challenges, the community is a great one that should have no problem communicating well with each other, staying current on issues and prospering.

“I see that Aurora is truly a great community, and I do have a lot of affection for it,” Squires said. “I would hate for tragedies to happen in Aurora. Everybody knows everybody else, and there’s no reason to have that type of violence. I love the people there. I want to see us grow and prosper. It’s a great privilege to lead this church and be a part of this community. It’s important to me and my wife and our church family to come together and make sure those opportunities are available for all ages in Aurora. It is no mystery Aurora has some challenges within the community, but they’re no insurmountable and we can come together and be the best it can be. It’s what God has called us to do so we gladly do it.”