February 14, 2017 10:12:58 AM
Monday evening, consultant K.B. Turner held the second of six planned ward meetings to discuss how the Columbus Police Department can better serve its residents and what residents can do to assist those efforts.
The meeting was held at the Sim Scott Center for residents of Ward 5, who are no strangers to the issues facing their community. There is nothing abstract about the crime problem for many of these residents; it exists right out their front windows.
Giving the choice between tuning out and turning out, it was apparent that the 50 or 60 who filled every available seat want to engage in making their community a safer, better place to live.
It could be argued that Monday's meeting was a matter of the choir turning out for rehearsal -- those who attended are not the people who are victimizing their neighborhoods. Even so, we are encouraged by the tone and tenor of the 1 1/2-hour meeting. As is the case at these sorts of gatherings, there was some pontificating, but, also there was an open, often candid exchange between residents and Turner, who responded to residents' observations.
No subjects appeared to be off the table, including what "community policing" has looked like until now and what it might look like going forward.
It is easy for officials to condescend in such an environment, to be dismissive of suggestions, to retreat behind vague platitudes and to suggest that the community is not fulfilling its role in fighting crime.
Yet we found little of that Monday. In truth, both police and residents can do better and Monday's meeting focused on ways to move forward.
Turner called for citizen volunteers to help the CPD by volunteering to do time-consuming clerical work at CPD headquarters.
The CPD, meanwhile, can making community policing more about building relationships with residents than looking to write citations for minor infractions. To many, these encounters seem more like confrontations than conversations, which damages rather than improves the now-tenuous bond of trust between police and the people.
Tonight, the conversation resumes in Ward 3 with a meeting at 6 p.m. at First Christian Church (811 N. McCrary Road), another opportunity for citizens not only to air their grievances, but to learn how both the CPD and residents can achieve a common goal.
These meetings, when completed, are a step toward that goal. How Turner and the CPD respond to what they have heard, how whatever changes emerge are implemented and how the community responds to what is required of it, will ultimately decide how successful this venture will be.
But a third of the way through these meetings, we are encouraged that what we have heard and seen suggests both the city and its citizens are eager to strengthen the bonds of trust that is vital to success.
It may be only a start, but it's a good start.
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