NEW ORLEANS -- Since the deadly shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, most of the encounters between police and the people outraged by the incident have taken place on the streets.
Tuesday night members of the African-American community sat face to face with local leaders of police and sheriff departments. They spoke frankly, and then listened to each other.
"After the tragedy that happened with Alton Sterling it didn't seem like there was any sensitivity on the side of the police force,” said Kwame Gates, filmmaker. “It seemed like, it's a slap in the face. ‘Ok, we're going to come at you, more aggression, more violence. Go back in your hole, go back to your cages’, instead of understanding why these people gathered."
Local law enforcement said they understand how protesters feel.
"I wholeheartedly understand what he's saying as an African-American man, born and raised in this city, who is married and who has children I’ve raised in this city,” said NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison. “I have to share those concerns and understand where it is he's coming from."
Law enforcement leaders talked about raising their children.
“I have a son, he's not (as light of a complexion) as I am, but he fits in with every other young African-American male that's on the street,” said St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre. “And he's out here and he can cross with any kind of officer good and bad, and I don't hesitate when I say that."
At a time when some say they feel under attack by police, officers themselves admit their level of safety has been shaken.
"I believe there concerned about the atmosphere, and rightfully so, they're doing their jobs, that puts them in the front lines," said Eric Hessler of the Police Association of New Orleans.
The deep divisions have deep roots, and no one here was under the illusion that there's a single solution. While it may require more outreach from both police and the community Dr. Walter Kimbrough, Dillard University president, said real change requires a hard look in the mirror.
"We focus so much on the police aspect of it, but since I’ve been at Dillard, I’ve had one active student murdered, and I’ve had who just graduated who was the first homicide victim of this year and I didn't get a march for either one of them,” Kimbrough explained. “The first one who died this year, we still don't know who killed her. I haven't had any students killed by police."
Kimbrough went on to explain his students were killed at the hands of someone in the community.
"Everybody has work to do," he said. "If we just sit back and think the police will take care of everything and I’m beefing with him and I’m killing him, nothing is going to get fixed."