Baton Rouge leaders work to improve police, community relationship

Caresse Jackman talks to community members about their reactions to the DOJ decision, and police and community relations.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- As the state moves forward with their own investigation, the citizens of Baton Rouge is working to improve relations between police and the African-American community.

From community organizers to Baton Rouge’s Mayor, improving those ties and strengthening that relationship is vital to moving their community forward – and make sure something as tragic as Alton Sterling’s death and the chaos that followed doesn’t happen again.

Across the street from the Triple S Food Mart, where Sterling was fatall shot by a Baton Rouge Police Office last July, sits the 100 Black Men of Greater Baton Rouge’s office.

“Our chapter represents 90-plus men that give up their time and their money to work with young people,” Michael Victorian, the organization’s president, said.

MORE: DOJ: Not enough evidence to prosecute; Family: State should prosecute

One of their missions is to strengthen the relationship between young black men and the BRPD.

“We have a program within our organization, it's called ‘Respecting Authority,’ where we take our young men through scenarios if they're stopped for any reason, how they should react," Victorian explained. 

However, according to Victorian, the bigger problem is having that conversation in the first place.

"Just the idea that we have to take the time to do that, with young black men, it says something about it right there." Victorian said. “In a society that's supposedly color blind, where all people are equal?"

It’s a problem community based organizations like Together Baton Rouge want resolved.

Rev. Lee Wesley says since Sterling’s death, they’ve demanded fundamental changes in Baton Rouge’s police department. On their list: Hiring more minority officers and calling for an independent group to monitor the department’s actions.

“We think that it's absolutely essential that when something happens within the department that it ought to be reviewed by a citizen s committee, a police monitor who is not under the control of the Chief of Police," Wesley said.

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome says the city is already taking major steps to improve police and community ties.

Last Wednesday, city council members set aside $2.5 million for body cameras. They’re also revising Baton Rouge’s police policy training for use of force.

"I am committed as Mayor to keep doing that important work. To keep working to close the gap,” Broome said. “Between our officers and the citizens in this wonderful community." 

Victorian said he remains optimistic that the state will have a thorough investigation and hopes justice will be served.

“We don't want our citizens to fear police officers,” Victorian said. “And we don't want our police officers to fear our young men.”

© 2017 WWL-TV


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