RICHMOND, Va. – Local faith leaders met recently to talk about ways to improve relationships between law enforcement and the community.
Recently the Department of Justice report – the final one --cleared police officer Darren Wilson -- of wrongdoing, but said the Ferguson Police Department was a highly toxic environment.
Faith leaders said that though Ferguson is hundreds of miles away, the issues going on there still hit close to home. They said it was disturbing to read a report that revealed evidence of racial bias and discrimination, and unconstitutional policing practices.
Richmond’s NAACP president said it has prompted them to join forces with other community leaders to hopefully build stronger relations with local officers
"It's about accountability and that leads to transparency which leads to credibility,” said Lynetta Thompson.
“I think it's a good opportunity to engage our law enforcement, help them do their jobs, because we all want low crime rates and we all want no violence in our community; so it's an excellent opportunity even though it's unfortunate that Ferguson had to go through the things that they're going through,” said Robert Barnette, with the Hanover NAACP.
Others, like radio show host and community activist Jack Gravely, said the challenge now is to better educate the community about racial issues, so that everyone has a place at the table and a voice in the discussion.
“Making it public, talking about it, carrying the message on the highways and byways and letting people learn about it,” Gravely said. “It's the beginning this is not the ending.
The next step of this coalition is to arrange a series of meetings with local and state public safety officials. Their aim is to come up with ways to work together to ensure a Ferguson situation never happens here on our streets.
Local police chiefs also answered community questions on Thursday, at an event hosted by the Richmond Times Dispatch. You can read that here.