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Community members, law enforcement begin dialog on use of force and racism

Shardaa Gray/KOKH

Oklahomans had the chance to voice their concerns about police Saturday. The discussion was targeted to bridge the gap of communication between the community and law enforcement.

“There is a fear and we have a fear and we feel as though it's justified because we don't have the power to de-escalate,” said NAACP Oklahoma City Branch president, Garland Pruitt.

Race and use of force, two of the main topics that was discussed at the 2017 Police and Community Trust Forum. Norman police chief, Keith Humphrey, said with incidents like Betty Shelby’s trial for first-degree manslaughter, it opens a lot of discussion.

“If that's what you're seeing, there is a reason for someone to think that the minority community is still being targeted,” Humphrey said. “And so that's why these type of forums, these type of events are very vital.”

“I just think that it's very important to ensure the safety of both the officers and citizens. That there's open communication and trust and relationships,” said community member, Katie Samples.

Midwest City Police chief, Brandon Clabes, Norman Police Chief, Keith Humphrey, Lawton Police Chief, James Smith and Oklahoma City Police Chief, William Citty attended Saturday's forum. Cleveland County Sheriff was there as well. Saturday's forum consisted of questions from community members on body cameras, use of force and interaction with community.

“The black community is seeing officers shooting unarmed people and that's played over and over again on say, YouTube. So why would our youth and people not feel like that's all that's happening?” said Citty.

Chief Citty said his officers need to understand that's how the community feels and they need to understand it will take some time to regain trust with the community.

“We all think it's the police that are racist and probably police think, well it's the citizens. If that dialog doesn't happen then we're bound to hit another officer involved shooting,” said concerned citizen, Sean Braddy.

Members of the ACLU, the YWCA and the NAACP along with other community organizations were there as well.

Community members said they need to continue to have open discussion like this to continue to move forward.

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