Several community leaders and members of law enforcement took part in a program designed to build a dialogue between the community and law enforcement at Redeemer United Methodist Church in Harper Woods on Oct. 14. The panel included,from left, Harper Woods Mayor Pro Tem Valerie Kindle; Detective Don Dent, of the Detroit Police Department; Sgt. Diaz Graves, of the Detroit Police Department; Trooper Antonio Richardson, of the Michigan State Police; and Lt. Calvin Hart, of the Michigan State Police. Speaking is attorney Luther Glenn.

Several community leaders and members of law enforcement took part in a program designed to build a dialogue between the community and law enforcement at Redeemer United Methodist Church in Harper Woods on Oct. 14. The panel included,from left, Harper Woods Mayor Pro Tem Valerie Kindle; Detective Don Dent, of the Detroit Police Department; Sgt. Diaz Graves, of the Detroit Police Department; Trooper Antonio Richardson, of the Michigan State Police; and Lt. Calvin Hart, of the Michigan State Police. Speaking is attorney Luther Glenn.

Photo by Brendan Losinski


Panel discusses relationship between community and law enforcement

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published October 26, 2018

HARPER WOODS — On Oct. 14, community members and representatives from law enforcement met at Redeemer United Methodist Church in Harper Woods to discuss the relationship between the police and the community to try to forge a stronger dialogue on the subject.

The event was organized by the Sigma Beta Club.

“Given the strained relationship between law enforcement and young black males, we were hoping creating a dialogue will help,” said Warren Galloway, coordinator for the Sigma Beta Club. “We want to put young people in the shoes of law enforcement officers so they know what’s going through their heads and vice versa.”

Residents from Harper Woods and Detroit were in attendance, as well as members of the Detroit Police Department and the Michigan State Police.

“We invited people from various communities so we could have as wide a conversation as possible,” said the Rev. Marshall Murphy Jr., the pastor of Redeemer United Methodist Church. “It let both sides have an up-close and personal encounter with each other and say things people might not hear in the national dialogue.”

Foremost on many people’s minds were the number of highly publicized cases of alleged police overreach and violence, particularly in regard to the African-American community.

Galloway said that Detroit has so far avoided most cases of hostility between the police and the African-American community in the last several years, but that is no reason such issues should not be at the forefront of the public’s mind.

“I think Detroit is better than most communities (in this regard). I think the reason is a matter of leadership and the department going out of their way to do a lot of community outreach,” he remarked. “It only takes one incident to affect the entire department, though. You have a better chance to offset the likelihood of those kinds of incidents with strong relationships with the community and programs like this.”

Michigan State Police Trooper Antonio Richardson, who took part in the panel, said the potential conflict between the police and the community is on the minds of many of his fellow department members, but he is firm in his belief that such tension can be overcome.

“My hope is that the community gains a better understanding of law enforcement and we gain a better understanding of the community,” he said. “I think through communication we can bridge these gaps.”

He hopes people will be able to see him not only as an officer sworn to uphold the law, but as a human being like them.

“I do understand there is a barrier between law enforcement and the community,” said Richardson. “I try to break down that barrier by humanizing myself. Sometimes the best thing you can do is step out of the car and talk to people. At the end of the day, I take off the uniform and I’m like everyone else.”

Among the other panelists was Harper Woods Mayor Pro Tem Valerie Kindle, who said the relationship with police in Harper Woods is very positive, but people need to work to maintain and grow that relationship.

“I think the relationship between the police and the community in Harper Woods is excellent,” said Kindle. “Our chief and officers are great, and the department really tries to be part of our community.”
Kindle wants to ensure that leaders in both the local community and among the police are reaching out to young people.

“The best thing we can do for the youth is be inclusive and ensure they’re part of the discussion,” Kindle said. “Any contact with the police can be fearful — for everyone — even if you’re just being pulled over for speeding. If you have no contact with police in a (non-official capacity), that fear grows. We need to maintain that contact with the police, or else you have an oppressive mentality form, and that’s when problems start to happen.”

Murphy said he believes the event was a success and hopes it will lead to more positive meetings with law enforcement.

“I absolutely think it made a difference for people. We had so many people, including parents, who had interactions with one another and police,” he said. “People learned how to respond to law enforcement, and everyone got to talk to voice their points of view, and the police got to share that they want to have a good relationship with the community.”

He went on to say that he received a lot of positive feedback for hosting the event.

“I think the younger people were still not sure how to respond to these issues, but we did have a lot of adults who were asking challenging questions about issues like profiling and how to respond in interactions with police,” said Murphy. “I think the community appreciated it because they needed to have this conversation with the authorities.”

Galloway said communication on both sides is the best way to prevent conflict.

“I hope (residents) can overcome perceptions, open a dialogue and see most police officers are good, law-abiding people who are active in the community,” Galloway remarked. “And I hope law enforcement can hear from the community and get to know their thoughts and feelings so they can better police the community.”