Shreveport mayor, his commission on race meet to discuss policing and community relations

“This is our opportunity as a people to carry on the baton of this movement that was started long before us”

"This is our opportunity as a people to carry on the baton of this movement that was started long before us"

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — Improved relationships between police and communities. That’s the goal of Shreveport’s Commission on Race.

Race relations panel ready to move from talk to action; mayor says start by addressing distrust between blacks, police

Several issues were brought up when Mayor Adrian Perkins and the panelists met for the first time Thursday.

“Some of the main issues are police brutality and unfairness and distrust when it comes to our Police Department,” Michael LaFitte, of the Shreveport unit of the NAACP.

The commissioners all agreed that open conversation is a much-needed step toward a more unified city.

Police brutality, inequity, distrust: Panel begins candid talk about what it means to be black and live, work in Shreveport

“I thought it was a good conversation," said John Henson, pastor of Church for the Highlands. “I think there is so much for us to talk about and it is necessary for us to talk and it is a crucial part for us to get at this issues.”

But panelists said their work will not stop there.

“The conversation has gone well. Obviously, we have to move past conversation," said Brian Wilson, pastor of Galilee Baptist Church. “This is our opportunity as a people to carry on the baton of this movement that was started long before us.”

Perkins observed: “Everyone had a sense of concern for our community and wants our community to do better. And not that people want to slam our Police Department, more so, people want to be more educated on the processes.

“They do have some recommendations and reform that need to happen, but they just want to feel safe.”

Commissioners say now that they’ve had the discussion, it’s time to move toward action.

Perkins said that action should start with addressing mistrust between the black community and law enforcement.

“We had the discussion about body cameras," the mayor said. "We are talking to federal agencies right now to get that funding and get it as quickly as possible.

"We talked about our use of force policy and having the public actually view it and make recommendations if there’s any reform that has to happen there and then various things with training.”

Commissioners say their goal is to make changes that lead to a more unified Shreveport and a better understanding of how members of our community feel right now.

“We have to start having those uncomfortable conversations," Wilson said. "Black people have to start having those uncomfortable conversations, not just with one another, but with our white colleagues about how uneasy we feel to just literally do things like walk in a store.”

“The community is hurt right now," LaFitte added. "For some who say that it’s not real, I know for sure that it’s real, I’ve lived it. So the community is hurt. The community is mourning right now.”

All agreed this is a much-needed step toward change.

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