TROY, Mich. – A local bishop put officers and angry residents in the same room to talk through their differences.
Local 4 Defender Kevin Dietz was there as both sides tried to tackle a very complex issue. Those in attendance were not holding back, making shocking statements that made some law enforcement officers cringe.
Bishop Hugh D. Smith wanted police to hear directly from passionate and angry residents about police shootings of African-Americans.
"There is a disease in our community, and we cannot heal unless we are willing to be honest and not defensive," Smith said.
Stories about young black men getting pulled over, arrested and shot have become more common. Meanwhile, police explained their own training and diversity efforts, while expressing concern for their own safety.
"I know how to stop white police officers from killing black men and boys," Dr. M. Tyrone Cushman, of United Ministries International, said. "For every black young man that is unarmed and killed by a white policeman, we will kill two white policemen."
He acknowledged that it's not something law enforcement officers or members of the community want to hear and said he's not telling anyone to do it. But he said that it would work.
"I guarantee you it won't happen anymore," he said.
When citizens asked how they should act when pulled over by police, an officer representing the Michigan State Police shocked the crowd.
"It's not about your hand on the steering wheel, but I do want to see your hands," Sgt. Faith Larkin said. "When I'm coming up to a car, if the first thing I'm met with is attitude, then attitude is what you get back."
Larkin said the MSP patrol stop procedure book goes out the window. She said people get exactly what they give her.
"I always said, if I'm at a traffic stop and someone can make me laugh, I can't write you a ticket," Larkin said. "If you are rude, expect rudeness back."
Her comments that the Michigan State Police lack minorities and fail to give sufficient training to white officers working in black communities gave many people at the meeting cause for concern.
"Were they qualified to make those split-second decisions on whether a man is pulling his wallet, or is he going for a gun?" Smith asked. "The outcome has been tragic."
Smith said the purpose of his controversial meetings was to find and fix weaknesses in law enforcement before an incident happened. The bishop said he will continue holding town hall meetings. The next one is Saturday.
For information on how to attend the meeting, click here.
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