The Community Advisory Board for the Salt Lake City Police Department held a discussion with police aimed at parents of African-American children Tuesday evening at the Salt Lake City Library.
Topics strayed away slightly from the national discussion over violence between police and African Americans, and focused primarily on Utah’s African American children and their interaction with law enforcement members.
David Parker, EdD, of the Center for Creating Community opened the forum by noting that everyone in the audience, the advisory board and the police could all be doing something else. Instead, he said, they were sitting in the basement of the library in a room with no windows, and for what?
“We’re here because there’s a crisis,” Parker said. “We’re here because we want to understand something; we’re here because we want to begin to communicate in a way that is beneficial to build relationships that benefit our children.”
During the course of the evening, parents were able to raise concerns with the advisory board and Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown.
One woman in particular pleaded with Brown, asking, “How do we prevent our kids from becoming the next story?”
To that question, and most others throughout the discussion, Brown prescribed conversation between police and children and their parents as the solution.
“It’s hard to hate up close—it really is. We need to put our differences aside, we need to put our biases aside and we need to come together as a community,” Brown said. “Let’s get out of the streets. Let’s really put our money where our mouths are and sit down and talk about it.”
Advisory board member Cathy Stokes sided with Brown but brought the issue down to a personal level. The root of the problem, she said, is racism.
“This is much larger than the police,” Strokes said. “We haven’t resolved the civil war.”
Stokes went on to encourage attendees to enact change within themselves first instead of blaming police.
“We’ve got to belly up to the bar; we’ve got to put our grown-up pants on, or skirts,” she said. “Everyone wants to start with the police. Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.”
Tuesday’s parley was the first of its kind for the advisory board and the SLCPD. Fellow board member and parent of an African American child Carole Barnard was excited about the impassioned discussion, and said she was looking forward to future events between Salt Lake City parents, children and police.
“This is one of our first official meetings,” Barnard said. “We’re really excited because our goal is to be a bridge between the Salt Lake City Police Department and the community.”
As the discussion wrapped up, Parker likened creating safe interactions between African American children and police to a glacier, stating change is slow, “but its impact lasts forever and ever.”