A BETTER UNDERSTANDING: Law enforcement, community host successful forum
Published 7:03 pm Saturday, February 21, 2015
AURORA — A local community recently held a forum for community members to better understand the roles and responsibilities of law enforcement and how both can continue to coexist harmoniously.
The forum, held at St. Peter’s Baptist Church, was a collaboration of several community churches and featured an attendance of community members of multiple ages and backgrounds, some of which were retired law enforcement, said Barry Squires, pastor of St. Peter’s. Among the representatives of local law enforcement agencies were Aurora Police Chief Mike Harmon, Aurora Police Commissioner W.C. Boyd, Beaufort County Police Activities League Director Alvin Powell, who is also a retired FBI agent, and Chief Deputy Charlie Rose of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.
Squires said the forum was well received by both community members and law enforcement and facilitated an opportunity for community members to talk about their roles as citizens and law enforcement to address their roles in the community. Community members, made up of professionals, youth and adults from different backgrounds and cultures, were able to ask the panel of law enforcement different questions, moderated by Tina Payton, a Wake County resident, ranging from response times and personnel in regard to 911 calls to how to conduct one’s self when stopped by law enforcement to how to avoid tension like that which is happening in some communities across the nation.
“It was very powerful and very respectful and open,” Squires said. “Some questions were really tough, but the panel did a great job letting the community know about their roles and how to bridge the gap between the two to have few misunderstandings. And I want to give a special thanks to the local pastor who collaborated to make this possible. It was a blessing to work together.”
One of the topics of focus came from conversation about understanding what goes through the minds of law enforcement when engaging the public and understanding what some of their triggers are that cause them to be alerted to an action, Squires said.
“That was important to know because, as a regular individual, I may not understand some of the things I’m doing to heighten a response from law enforcement,” Squires said. “The whole forum was truly about understanding each other’s roles. The forum had a very positive tone, and it was truly a wonderful community event and everyone had their hands in making this really great.”
Sgt. Steve Wallace with the Aurora Police Department said he spoke with Chief Harmon about the forum and Harmon expressed his belief that it was a success and facilitated different local agencies developing a plan to better communicate and back each other up.
“It went really well, and (Harmon) thought it was a real success,” Wallace said. “I was told it was a big success and that the sheriff sent part of his command staff to develop a plan that would integrate more of the local law enforcement agencies across the area.”
Powell said the forum was important for the community because it allowed the members to see things from the law enforcement perspective. The panel also discussed law enforcement protocols on a county level, interactions with law enforcement in Aurora, as well as county police, and the thought-process of law enforcement when interacting with the public.
“Mike and Charlie had a phenomenal command of language and issues, and they were honest in their responses. That’s one reason why the program was so successful. The audience gave a standing ovation at the end of the program. It was not a tension-filled, adversarial environment. Everyone was being sincere and addressing and answering questions with respect and dignity.”