(BHC Merced) – Last week, our very own, Community Outreach and Logistic Coordinator, Isai Palma as well as numerous local civic leaders and stakeholders (CCROP, CNC, Le Grand High School, Merced PD, etc) across the valley and Merced congregated in Stockton for the American Legion Forum. The cross section gathering was centered around ways to improve community relations with law enforcement. The follow article from Record Net highlights the event that took place.
Nearly 150 people participated in a roundtable discussion about relations between community and law enforcement at the American Legion Forum held Saturday at De Rosa Center at University of the Pacific in Stockton.
STOCKTON — A cross section of community members, civic leaders and law enforcement officials from San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties gathered at University of the Pacific on Saturday to discuss ways to improve community relations with law enforcement agencies.
The American Leadership Forum’s Greater Valley Chapter hosted the event, titled “Getting Out in Front,” in the Grand Ballroom at the DeRosa University Center. Nearly 150 participants were divided into smaller groups and seated at one of 15 tables, where they discussed a range of issues impacting relationships with law enforcement agencies in their respective communities.
“I think it’s critical for our community to have these kinds of open conversations to bridge that gap between the community and law enforcement,” said Becky Moffitt, a Stockton resident who represented the Tuleburg Group. “I think with what’s currently going on in the media, people have this heightened misperception about law enforcement, and I think it’s good to have more candid, open community conversations.”
Among those who participated in the discussions were Lodi Police Chief Mark Helms, Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones and San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore. Jones has spent a significant amount of time in the community in recent months, attending town-hall style meetings and other forums to discuss concerns some have raised following a series of officer-involved shootings in Stockton and other parts of the country.
“It was very valuable to hear from yet another large cross section of our three counties, and I think it really shows that law enforcement in this region is on the right path to increasing trust in the community,” Jones said.
The event began at 9:30 a.m. and ended shortly before 3 p.m. The morning session included a keynote speech by Constance Rice, co-founder and co-director of the Advancement Project, a multiracial civil rights organization. The afternoon session included roundtable discussions on what law enforcement agencies and communities are doing well and what they could do better.
Many said law enforcement agencies should continue to meet with community advisory boards and continue their efforts in youth outreach and gang prevention.
“We feel that the school resource officer and gang intervention programs are very effective, and we want to somehow continue to fund those and keep those going,” said Alfonso Nava, vice principal at Cesar E. Chavez Middle School in Merced County.
Some felt law enforcement agencies and citizens should be more open, honest and transparent.
“We should stop the code of silence in the police departments and in the communities,” said Mathew Francis, a managing partner with the Pacific Rim Advisory Group in Modesto. “We have to stop protecting what’s not right and open up the door.”
Helms said the event was a good opportunity to clear up misconceptions about law enforcement agencies, some of which came from panelists at the forum, who claimed police were acting as immigration officers, he said.
“It’s a good start,” Helms said. “There is a great deal of misinformation and misperceptions about California law enforcement, and we need to do a better job of telling the people we serve what we do and why we do it.”
BY: JASON ANDERSON, REPORTER, RECORDNET.COM/CRIMEBLOG