Connecting officers to the community

TOPEKA (KSNT) – After the racial tension erupted in Ferguson, Emma Ray knew she had to step in. Ray works with teens at a Topeka church and doesn’t want one of their interactions with police to go south.

“Finding out a lot of them were getting in trouble and you know, as young as 11 years old fighting with the police,” says Ray.

So she organized a meeting with law enforcement and her neighbors to talk things out.

“I’m hoping that out of this meeting people will learn how to work together. Come to the table with some solutions,” says Ray.

The biggest objective is creating trust, especially when there’s a racial divide between an officer and the person they’re stopping.

“It is intimidating,” says Elijah Ray, who attended the meeting.

So to reduce the intimidation, the Topeka Police Department is offering two solutions. The first, training officers to be self-aware of personal bias.

“We have to teach our police officers also how to deal with young black males and young Hispanic males because they come from a different culture. And some of this stuff is culture,” says Deputy Chief Tony Kirk.

The other solution? Body cameras so there’s no discrepancies.

“It keeps our officers honest…and alleviates some of those unnecessary complaints that you get against our officers. Saying that our officers cussed them out or preformed badly,” says Kirk.

Many at the meeting said they want to have a relationship with the police department, but don’t know where to start. Ray hopes, this meeting did just that. So that police can keep everyone safe.

“They’re here to protect and serve. And that’s what we know, and that’s what we’ve got to tap into,” says Ray.

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