Public forum set between Richmond police, protesters

Published: Jan. 29, 2015 at 10:27 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 8, 2015 at 11:00 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A date is now set for Richmond police to have a public forum with local protesters. The community meeting, planned for February 10th, comes after more than two months of rallies across the city concerning police conduct, and a slew of other issues.

Protests sprung up nationally since the officer-involved shooting death of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Protesters say they want to ask Richmond police about officer conduct and protocol.

No topic is off the table, according to demonstrators. They say they'll be asking questions like "If an officer asks me to take my hands out of my pockets, do I have to?"

Both demonstrators and police say they want an open dialogue. The public forum will be held at the Police Training Academy on February 10th, from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.. Citizens will write in questions, which will be read by local radio personality Clovia Lawrence, who is acting as the moderator. Organizers are using the social media hashtag #PeepsAndPolice.

The goal is to create understanding and transparency among police and the people they serve, according to demonstrators. It's something that local protesters say is lacking. Add to that a more serious, national concern of police profiling, harassment or brutality.

"Incidents that happen here, we're looking at the statistics… and all of Central Virginia," said Jamil Jasey, with one of the protesting groups, Justice RVA.

The president of the Virginia Fraternal Order of Police, Sgt. Kevin Carroll, says officers welcome a two-way discussion.

"It's always a good opportunity to have an open dialogue with the community to address issues that may or may not occur," said Sgt. Carroll. "An officer wants to go to work, do his job, have the least amount of conflict that he has to have during the shift, and then go home to his family."

City Council President Michelle Mosby wrote in a statement on the forum:

"I applaud the tenacity of the protesters and their passion for social justice, and I celebrate the persistence of our police, particularly the efforts of Major Steve Drew, to engage the protesters on their issues. This is the type of peaceful collaboration and mutual respect that we want the city of Richmond to be known for...his was the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King's nonviolent movement and what makes African American History so great."

Protesters say they're also planning a second forum with police, which aims to include city council and school board members, to tackle other issues not necessarily related to the police department.

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