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Police outreach efforts commendable

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28.AUG.09

When a young man, barely twenty years old, speaks casually of a foreign hit man being hired to kill him and another claims he was shot at three times by rivals with a submachine gun, it is time for us to take stock.

When one mother loses two of her children to gun violence, in separate incidents, just a few months apart, it is time for us to take action.{{more}}

It is, therefore, heartening to observe the response of members of the Edinboro, Ottley Hall and Redemption Sharpes communities to the recent initiative of Commissioner of Police Keith Miller.

After efforts to bring young men from these communities, who are suspected of being involved in acts of criminality, to meetings at police headquarters failed, Miller decided to go to them and have the meetings on their turf.

This is a good move and must be commended.

The Edinboro / Ottley Hall meeting, from all reports, seems to have been more successful, in terms of the turnout from the young people themselves and the fact that at the end of the meeting, the youths from Ottley Hall felt confident enough to refuse a police escort and walked through Edinboro without fear that they would be attacked.

None of the targeted persons reportedly turned out in Redemption Sharpes, but some headway was made in that some of the residents present apparently pledged to assist the police in trying to turn the situation around.

No one is naïve enough to think that all is well now in these communities, but this outreach project is a start. The conversation has begun. It will take some time for the police to earn the trust of a group of people who for many years have seen them as the adversary.

As a matter of fact, in Redemption Sharpes, one resident told the police that if they do not learn how to deal with civilians in a different manner, the “hatred” towards them will continue to grow. Hatred is a strong word, especially when used in relation to a group of people whose role is to protect and serve us.

Certainly, police community relations in many communities here were at a low point as evidenced by the way in which the residents of Murray’s Village turned against them when they tried to make an arrest recently.

This is not a good state of affairs, as effective policing cannot take place in a vacuum and depends heavily on the support and assistance of the general public.

That is why this new approach must be supported and encouraged. As the commissioner has stated, this cannot be a one-off effort, but must be looked at as a project and will take the efforts of all the social agencies at our disposal.

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